Why are some 905 numbers long distance while others aren’t? And what’s with this 647 business?
Dear Urban Decoder: Why are some 905 numbers long distance (you have to dial 1 first) while others aren’t? And what’s with this 647 business? Why is our area code system so complicated?—Jim Barber, Mississauga
It may be irritating, but it’s not uncommon to have a mixture of local and long distance within one area code. (Just ask anyone from the northern half of Canada, which is entirely served by 867.) But you’re right in thinking that Toronto’s system is messy. When area codes were introduced in 1947, Ontario had only two: 416 for the south and 613 for the rest. Then rapid population growth from the ’60s onward led to several annoying “code splits”—as when 905 was hastily divided from 416 in 1993. The arrival of cellphones, ATMs and Internet accounts has now brought us the 647 area code, Canada’s first “code overlay.” This controversial aggregation of codes in one area (which sometimes leads to multiple codes within a single building) is just the beginning. Other horrors, such as phone numbers of variable lengths, are predicted for the future—at which point you might consider moving to Nunavut.