What’s the 611?

WASHINGTON — NCTA: The Internet & Television Association argues that the Federal Communications Commission shouldn’t repurpose 611 — or any of the other numbers now in use in the N11 system — for a proposed suicide prevention/ mental health hotline.

Presumably 911 is safe, but the NCTA is advising the FCC to look somewhere other than the N11 system in choosing a number for the hotline created by the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 (NSHIA) — particularly 611, but other numbers as well.

NCTA pointed out that while the FCC has not officially designated it as such, many of its members use 611 for customer repair service calls. Fun fact: 411, which has become associated with directory assistance, was not designated by the FCC for that purpose either, according to the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, which is also advising against co-opting 611.

The three largest NCTA members generated a collective call volume to 611 of 556,879 in just two months (last October and November), the trade group said.

The FCC is asking whether the number should be an “easy to remember” number, which NCTA is all for, just not one currently in use at the volume of, say, 611.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.