Why is toll free service so popular?

Toll free numbers – 800/888/877/866-NXX-XXXX (where N is a digit between 2 and 9 and X is a digit between 0 and 9) – allow callers to reach businesses or individuals without being charged for the call. The charge for using a toll free number is paid by the called party instead of the calling party (the called party is called the toll free subscriber).

In today’s world, toll-free numbers have become commonplace. Toll-free service has proven successful to businesses, particularly in the areas of customer service and telemarketing, because the service provides potential customers and other persons with a “free” and convenient means of contacting those businesses.

Toll-free numbers are also increasingly popular for personal use. For example, parents can give their toll-free number to their child away at college, enabling that child to call home anytime without having to make a collect call and without the child having to pay for the call.

Other reasons why toll free numbers are popular are because it is a way to attract new customers for any business and helps to build customer loyalty. It is also a good way to assist traveling employees.

Brief History of Toll Free

800 numbers were developed in the late 1960s by AT&T as a convenient way for businesses to pay the tolls for their customers who contacted them. As the service became more popular, toll free subscribers began finding new and innovative uses for the service. For example, mail order companies used toll free numbers to accept phone orders.

By the mid 1980s, when the Bell system was dismantled by the Justice Department, there were over 3 million 800 numbers in service by AT&T, and new long distance carriers were clamoring to provide 800 service. These carriers were assigned blocks of 800 numbers with common NXX codes, so, if you wanted to use service of a particular long distance carrier, you could only be assigned a number within the blocks of numbers assigned to that carrier. Thus, if a subscriber wanted to change long distance carriers, the subscriber would have to change toll free numbers. The numbers were not “portable.”

To create a more competitive toll free market, the FCC established the policy that is in place today: toll free numbers are “portable.” That is, a toll free subscriber may change his toll free service to another carrier, but he does not have to change his toll free number.

Toll Free Codes – 800, 888, 877, 866, 855

The introduction of toll free number portability helped propel the toll-free market. Within 18 months of the introduction of number portability very few of the 7 million 800 numbers were left for new subscribers. The telecommunications industry chose 888 as the next toll free code, introducing about 8 million new numbers to the toll free pool. The industry then introduced 877 numbers as the 888 numbers neared depletion. Thus, today, there are four toll free codes, 800, 866, 877, and 888. The industry plans to introduce 855, and other codes for toll-free calling as current toll free codes near depletion.

It should be noted that, while 800, 866, 877, and 888 are all toll free codes, they are not interchangeable. 1-800-123-4567 is not the same as 1-877-123-4567. Calls to each toll free number are routed to a particular phone number, although calls to different toll free numbers may be routed to the same local phone number.

Toll free directory assistance for all toll free codes is currently provided by AT&T and can be obtained by calling 1-800-555-1212. The Commission plans to address how to promote competition among multiple providers of directory assistance. In the meantime, it has required that all 555 numbers in the 888 area code, (888-555-XXXX numbers), remain unavailable for allocation.

How Are Toll-Free Numbers Allocated?

All toll free numbers are stored in a single computerized database, the SMS/800. Each toll free number has a “status” in the database, such as “reserved,” “assigned,” “working,” or “disconnected.” Toll free numbers that are available for assignment to subscribers are designated as “spare.”

Spare toll free numbers are assigned to subscribers on a first- come, first-served basis. Toll-free service providers are certified by the SMS/800 database administrator as “Responsible Organizations” (Resp. Orgs). Only Resp. Orgs have access to the SMS/800 database.

How Can I Get a “Vanity” Number?

A vanity number is a toll free telephone number that also spells a person or company’s name, a word, or acronym chosen by the subscriber. For example, 1-800-FLOWERS or 1-888-NEW-CARS. To find out the status of a specific toll free number, contact Clear Rate’s Customer Care Team.