Toll-Free 855 Coming Soon, to Join Toll-Free 800, 888, 877, 866 Area Codes [telecom]

On Friday night, 09-April-2010, NeuStar-NANPA issued its 1Q-2010 Newsletter, uploading to the NANPA website:

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On page 5 of the six-page newsletter, in the "News Brief" section, there is the following blurb (fourth paragraph):

"DSMI, the FCC's designated Toll Free Administrator, has notified the FCC of the projected exhaust of current toll free numbers and requested approval to release the 855 NPA code. Timeframe for availability of 855 numbers is no later than 4Q-2011."

SO... it looks like after over ten years now, there could be some new toll-free numbers of the 855-nxx-xxxx format!

The original AT&T/Bell System Inward-WATS toll-free 800 was introduced in the US over the 1966/67 time-frame. Alabama was the first state with intra-state "only" 800 service in 1966, and then during Spring 1967, inter-state nationwide (48-states/DC only) 800 toll-free service was introduced. I don't know when the other 47 states began their own intra-state "only" 800 service though.

800 Toll-Free (Inward-WATS) was introduced in Canada during 1969/70. There were dedicated 800-NNX codes for intra-Canada use, which had bands that were single-province to multi-provide to Canada-wide. However, some provinces paralleled the US practice of using 800-NN2 codes for intra-province "only" 800 numbers, just like intra-state "only" 800 service in the US also used the 800-NN2 codes.

But Canada's 800 and the US' 800 toll-free during the 1970s and early

1980s were NOT "interconnected". If a Canadian customer wanted a toll-free 800 number to be dialable from the US, they had to get a distinct "US-based" 800 number that would forward to Canada; and vice-versa, if a US customer wanted a toll-free 800 number to be dialable from Canada, they had to get a distinct "Canadian-based" 800 number that would forward to the US.

And until the early 1980s, inter-state 800 in the US (and until the mid/late 1980s, multi-province/Canada-wide 800 in Canada) had geographic based distinct 800-NNX codes for terminating at specific destination NPAs! And the line-numbers were assigned such that specific thousands, and sometimes even hundreds, indicated the particular purchased "bands" that were able to call that toll-free

800 number from various parts of the US (or Canada for Canadian-based 800).

Between 1977 and 1979, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Alaska, and the US Virgin Islands were added to toll-free 800 INWATS, where they could be purchased as originating locations for US-based 800 numbers, and they also could have intra-state/territory 800, as well as 800 numbers which could be called from the (mainland) US...

800-544 for inter-state toll-free terminating in 907 Alaska

800-367 for inter-state toll-free terminating in 808 Hawaii

800-468 for mainland US toll-free destined for PR part of (at the time) 809

800-524 for mainland US toll-free destined for (US)VI part of (at time) 809

Around 1982, AT&T-LL introduced a toll-free number database and used more CCIS signaling to where US-based 800 could be managed where there was no longer any geography associated with such (US) 800-NNX-xxxx based numbers. This was geographic portability, but all customers were those of AT&T-LL and/or the local telco (at the time all ILECs). Telecom-Canada introduced such geographic portability within Canada, and among the Canadian ILECs/etc. in the mid-to-late 1980s, although AT&T and Telecom-Canada had already begun a US/Canada co-operative use of their own legacy 800-NNX codes, i.e., 800-465 had traditionally been associated with 807/ON (western Ontario) as a destination for Canadian originated 800 calls, but Bell Canada/Telecom-Canada and AT&T-LL were now able to work it out such that 800-465-4329 was assigned to Holiday Inns in the US (call 1-800-HOLIDAY). The 800-465-4329 number was still not dialable from Canada at this time, but it would be flagged by Bell Canada as not assignable, since it was given up for AT&T-LL to assign to a US customer for (still at this time) US (only) use.

In 1984, AT&T-LL and Telecom-Canada finally began "cross-border" toll-free 800 services, where the same 800 number could be used for customers in either country who wanted originating calling capability from all or part of both countries.

During 1985/86, the US Federal Government, Bellcore, and the telcos/IXCs, as part of the evolving post-divestiture environment, came to an agreement that 800 toll-free service would eventually become competitive, AND fully portable among carriers. Competitive toll-free would begin at this time, but full "carrier portability" would not be required immediately. Instead, Bellcore-NANPA would assign previously unassigned 800-NXX codes to individual new-entrant IXCs (and LECs) who requested them. Some 181 legacy 800-NNX codes for the US would be retained by AT&T-LL, and some 18 or 19 legacy 800-NNX codes for Canada would continue to be associated with "Telecom-Canada". Bellcore would continue to assign or administer the line-numbers on

800-555 (directory and other special functions) and 800-855 (for TDD/TTY telco-provided services). The 181 AT&T-LL 800-NNX codes, the 18 (later 19) Telecom-Canada 800-NNX codes, and the two which Bellcore maintained (800-555, 800-855) were from the "old" pre-divestiture AT&T/Telecom-Canada "pool" for 800 inward-WATS for both the US and Canada, intra- and inter- state/province services, a total of just over 200 800-NNX codes out of the now 792 total 800-NXX code "pool".

It was understood that no carrier would actually "own" each assigned

800-NXX code, but that they would have line-number assignment use of them for use on their own networks. Within each network/carrier/800-NXX code, there would be _geographic_ portability, but not necessarily _carrier_ portability ... at least not at this time.

Some new-entrant competitive IXCs wanted the US Federal Government to order AT&T-LL to abandon its 800 database routing service, turning it over to either government management, or to BOC/LEC management, where it could immediately become "carrier competitive", on an "as is now" basis. But the federal courts rejected this, saying that the LECs would ultimately establish their _OWN_ databases in each LATA/etc., along with emerging SS7 signaling technology to replace pre-divestiture CCIS (and earlier MF/SF) signaling.

It was eventually decided that full carrier portability with BOC/LEC databases and SS7 local/intra-LATA signaling capability would be in place effective Spring 1992. However, a few months prior to that date, the legacy telcos and the FCC decided that things were still a bit premature and thus postponed the full carrier portability using BOC/LEC databases and intra-LATA/local SS7 technology for another year, May 1993. Things were most certainly fast-tracked now. Lockheed-Martin was chosen as the NASC (Number Assignment Service Center) for fully portable

800-NXX-xxxx ten-digit number assignment. Bellcore-NANPA would no longer need to (temporarily) assign or "associate" individual 800-NXX codes to specific service providers (both LECs and IXCs).

The 800-250 code was reserved (at least the 1,500 line-numbers -0000 thru -1499 on 800-250) for carrier "testing" purposes in a fully competitive-portable environment. Each carrier would be assigned one or more individual 800-250-xxxx numbers, or blocks of consecutive

800-250-xxxx numbers (with the restriction to the range of 0000 to 1499) so that one could dial a specific assigned number and see if they could reach the terminating assigned carrier's verification recording for testing. The use of 8yy-250-0000 thru -1499 has been retained as new 8yy toll-free area codes has come about, usually with the same assignments of line-numbers/ranges to the same service providers.

Canada was not yet going to join-in with fully carrier-portable 800 service. There was now SOME degree of competition in Canada among IXCs (Unitel-later-AT&T-Canada-now-Allstream was the first real competitive IXC, for example), and they provided competitive 800 service on their own "dedicated" 800-NXX codes, similar to the way US-based service providers were doing so from 1986 through Spring 1993.

But Canada decided that they would "join-in" with the US fully portable

800 environment, to become effective as of Spring 1994.

But the pool of 800-NXX codes was running out of codes even in a fully portable environment! Bellcore-NANPA, LM's NASC, and the industry agreed that 800-555 would be opened up for portable "regular" 800 numbers (with existing 800-555-1212 and other special previously assigned 800-555-xxxx numbers "grandfathered), and also opened up seven of the eight 800-N11 codes for assignment to regular line-numbers. Since 800 has to be dialed on a full ten-digit basis, there "should" be "no" confusion with existing three-digit N11 special local service codes. 800-911 is NOT assigned AT ALL, but the others, 800-211 thru

800-811 are assigned.

800-855 was/is also now portable among carriers, i.e., the ?xxxx line-numbers are part of the database, but assignment is still restricted to telco-provided TTY/TDD services for the hearing impaired using text/teletype-based phones.

Thus, the 800-NXX pool was now increased to 799 possible codes (out of eight hundred possible 800-NXX codes) altogether.

But this was still not going to be enough for the immediate future. It was suggested by some telco industry members in 1994/95 to open up the two-hundred 800-0xx/1xx codes, since toll-free 800 has to be dialed on a full ten-digit basis, but this was going to be very problematic with all kinds of customer-premises equipment (toll-restrictors, PBXes, etc) and telco network switches, those which were "hard-wired/coded" to reject customer dialing of 0XX/1XX codes in the office-code part of a ten-digit number. It was also thought that there might be way too many misdials of customers forgetting to first dial (1)-800, since ten-digit dialing for ALL calls was NOT yet as commonplace. When ten-digit local dialing is completely in place US/Canada-wide, then NPA+0XX/1XX codes MIGHT become available in all area codes, but not in the mid-1990s and still not yet today.

It was announced in Spring 1995 (I remember that I first heard about it on one of the late Paul Harvey's ABC Radio newscasts) that in Spring 1996, there would be additional toll-free numbers with '888' as the new toll-free area code. (Today, I would read about such things on NANPA's website, or the ATIS website, or Telcordia-TRA's website, etc., but back in 1995, even though the Internet was now "established" for public/commercial use, it was still relatively "new" as such, thus "regular" media such as regular radio or TV news services was how I first heard about such things! Paul Harvey was also where I first heard that southeast Texas was having its 713/409 area code split of early 1983!)

So, 888 was added in Spring 1996. You'd think that this would allow uninterrupted or such assignment of new toll-free numbers for at least

10-20 years! Afterall, 800 was first introduced in 1966/67, and it wasn't until 30 years later, Spring 1996, when 888 was implemented. But oh, no, there was all kinds of competitive/regulatory feuding and such, as to whether or not a company with an 800 number had a right to have the seven-digit part duplicated under 888, etc. The FCC was constantly involved with toll-free regulatory issues and such at that time. And it looked like 888 was going to exhaust rather early. The industry implemented special/toll-free area code 877 for further toll numbers in Spring 1998.

In both 888 and 877 (and future 866, etc), the 250-xxxx line-numbers for testing purposes as mentioned above, were duplicated for testing under these new toll-free special area codes.

The telco industry also determined that the assignment of codes for future toll-free (as needed) would be 877, 866, 855, 844, 833, 822. And then other 88x codes would be assigned (888 already having been assigned), but I don't know the "order" of implementation though (889 then 887, 886, ..., 881, 880? Or 880, 881, ..., 887, 889?).

As 2000 was approaching, it looked like 877 was "filling up fast", and the telco industry and FCC decided that in Spring 2000, _BOTH_ 866 _AND_ 855 would be simultaneously implemented. But others in the telco industry thought that this was "going too fast". There was a moratorium placed, and it was decided that LATE Spring 2000 would have 866, and then a month later 855, implemented. But even this was postponed.

866 was implemented in November 2000, with 855 to be implemented "when needed at some future TO BE DETERMINED date".

BTW, DSMI is an acronym mentioned in the 1Q/2010 NeuStar-NANPA Newsletter. This stands for Database Services Management Inc. My understanding is that DSMI is a subsidiary of Bellcore-now-Telcordia, and is the successor to what was Lockheed-Martin's NASC, the toll-free Number Assignment Service Center. Lockheed was becoming involved with telecom number/code assignment during the 1990s, but then Lockheed was going to buy some kind of aircraft subsidiary involving communications satellites, and that was thought to be a conflict of interest with LM's "neutral" involvement with telecom code and numbering assignments. LM spun-out NANPA to Warburg-Pincus in 2000 (now known as NeuStar), and I think that their toll-free NASC was spun-out to (at the time) Bellcore, now Telcordia, to become part of the DSMI subsidiary or division or operation of Bellcore/Telcordia.

Well, it looks like late 2011 will be the time when 855 will need to be implemented in the North American telephone network for further toll-free numbers!

It isn't unexpected.... 855 "should" be treated as a valid (special) NPA code in "most" local and toll switches, ILEC, CLEC, wireless, IXC, independent telco, etc. throughout the North American Network, but you never know if "everyone" is yet "on board". The 8yy-250-xxxx testing line-number assignment scheme should still be "in place", but after ten years, there are all kinds of mergers in telcos/IXCs, and also sell-offs/spin-offs (VeriZon's legacy BOC NET&T in ME/NH/VT now part of FairPoint; more legacy GTE/Contel sold off in 2000 and 2002, and now the VAST bulk of legacy GTE/Contel still held by VeriZon potentially to be sold to Frontier LEC along with legacy BOC C&P-West Virginia as well, and possibly other sell-offs/spin-offs), so I wonder how much of the telco industry is going to be "ready" to SMOOTHLY implement new 855 toll-free numbers, as well as how the

800-250-0000 thru -1499 line-number assignments still applies!

SO... it will be interesting to see over the next year and a half, how all of this will "play out". It isn't something that hasn't been done before, but it was over ten years since it was last applied, and there have been some changes in ownership and management in the telco industry since then!

More details to be posted as they are known!

BTW, if it took ten-plus years between 866 and 855, I wonder how long it might take from before 844 will be opened up after 855 actually does get opened up as a toll-free area code for additional toll-free numbering?

Mark J. Cuccia markjcuccia at yahoo dot com Lafayette LA, formerly of New Orleans LA pre-Katrina

Reply to
Mark J. Cuccia
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The thing that seems odd is that [with the cost of long distance very low or non-existant on my telephone services] is why there is such a need for toll-free numbers any more. When everyone gets flat rate long distance [and that day *is* coming], they will be of no additional value over standard numbers.

So why is there such a big rush to growth on them?


Reply to
Fred Atkinson, WB4AEJ

Companies pay for toll-free service because it comes with accurate ANI information that allows them to prioritize and route the calls *before* the call is answered.

If you're calling Land's End, and they have your number in their database as someone who places orders on every call and spends more than , you'll get a live attendant. If not, you get voice-mail-hell. If you owe them money, you get voice-mail-hell-with-attitude.

The point is, the decision is made while the line is still ringing. The economies of scale are worth millions.

Bill Horne (Filter QRM for direct replies)

Reply to
Bill Horne

First, for some reason, large companies have a large amount of toll- free numbers that seem to end up to the same call center. I don't know this is, but they do it But also, many companies have different toll free numbers for different purposes--sales, service, internal, different product lines, etc.

Secondly, per your post, the cost of long distance is not necessarily that low for many telephone users, especially people who don't make many calls, or businesses which don't get residential discounts. The cost for my unlimited long distance on my residential line is not inconsequential.

Third, calling a business might result in a long phone call due to waiting on hold, being transferred, phone mail jail, etc. Someone paying per minute, even at a modest rate, won't appreciate that.

Reply to
Jeff or Lisa

Mark, thanks for your report. Good to hear from you again and hope you'll be sending the newsgroup more of your excellent contributions.

As an aside, the Bell System offered a manually connected toll free service since the 1930s. It's name varied by location, but often called "Enterprise". One dialed their operator and asked for Enterprise nnnn. The operator looked it up in table to get the actual number and placed a collect call to it, not bothering to get permission to accept the charges. This service was offered for both intra state and interstate callers, even short haul toll callers.

This service apparently ceased in the 1990s. In its last days, one had to get an AT&T operator supervisor to dig out the conversion table since the service was very rarely used by that point and most operators never heard of it. Indeed, once 800 numbers came out, I don't know why the service lasted as long as it did. Anyone know?

Reply to
Jeff or Lisa

No, but you have a good memory! :-) The last time I heard of such "Enterprise" numbers must have been during the late 1950s.

A Google search didn't turn up anything useful (the word "enterprise" is too ubiquitous) but it did find the following article from this group's archives dated 7-May-2007 in which "Enterprise" is attributed to AT&T and "Zenith" to GTE:

Dunno 'bout everyone else, but reading white print on a star-studded black background is neither easy nor comfortable for me.

***** Moderator's Note *****

It's a scientific fact that dark backgrounds and white (or color) symbols, combined with proper lighting, is the most easily readable presentation. That's why the FAA uses it on "radar" displays in aircraft control centers.

But you're right about the archives, and I'm working on it.

Vis-a-vis "Enterprise" numbers: some may still be in service -

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Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to
Thad Floryan

You could get Enterprise/Zenith in very small specific areas, much smaller than 800 bands. Back when toll service was expensive, some businesses didn't see any point to paying for calls from people so far away that they'd be unlikely to become customers.

The other reason it lasted so long is, of course, inertia.

R's, John

PS: In Philadelphia they were called WX numbers. No idea what if anything WX stood for.

Reply to
John Levine

Curious, I found these three (small) examples:

And (professional) astronomical charts are (mostly) black text and imagery on a white background so more detail can be discerned; it's not just to save money on laser printer toner. :-)

Books, too, are (normally) black text on white background.

There's a difference between a reflective presentation (inks and paints on paper) and a transmittive presentation (CRTs and LCDs), but I prefer black text on white backgrounds even on my LCDs and have no problems using them that way 14+ hours/day.

Thank you! I found an easy way to force foreground/background colors in the browser but it's a PITA to switch back and forth.

Reply to
Thad Floryan

I know that you had problems reading white and green text against a black background, but if you noticed the TDO links on that post, there were some replies to it. Including one that refuted Pat Townson's mention that "Enterprise was AT&T and Zenith was GTE". That is just an old wive's tale! Please let's NOT perpetuate any more of these old wives tales on these matters!

Enterprise, Zenith, WX, and others were used by the ENTIRE US and Canadian telco industry, without any regard to who the terminating telco happened to be, Bell or independent. The use of different "exchange" names for this manually handled toll-free service prior to the development of automated 800/InWATS (and even for many years since 800 was introduced and became commonplace) is that each LOCATION developed its own "exchange names". In some locations in the 1930s, "Commerce" was also used.

But "Zenith", "Enterprise", and "WX" became the legacy names used in the 1960s-forward era.

Also, the "line-number" following the name could be as few as three-digits or as many as five-digits, at least I've seen three, four, and five-digit line-numbers.

[ ... ]

It takes a LONG TIME for some things to completely disappear! :-) And telco frequently is required under regulatory orders to grandfather existing customers under old, mostly discontinued services, unless telco can prove that it would create a severe unnecessary financial burden. Thus, there continue to be legacy "Zenith", "Enterprise", and "WX" numbers out there.

Mark J. Cuccia markjcuccia at yahoo dot com

Reply to
Mark Cuccia

The operator did not get the collect call accepted because the subscriber to the "Enterprise" or "Zenith" or "WX" service agreed to pay for the call and since it was a "toll free" service to the caller did not necessarily want the caller to know how the call was paid for. Of course a caller could have placed a collect call but in many cases would have considered that inappropriate. The receiver of the call wanted to encourage calls for sales or whatever. I had such service at Konawa OK, from Wewoka OK in the early 1950s. Because there were still a shortage of facilities in some places after World War II, it required separate approval from Bell if it involved more than one toll center. Even though Konawa was in the same county as Wewoka (the county seat) the toll center for Konawa (a CDO) was Ada, in the next county, so two toll centers were involved, Wewoka and Ada. Wes Leatherock

Reply to


You're making my case for me: those pictures all show dark backgrounds, and white or color symbols.

Of course, books are printed with (dark) ink on (white) paper because that' s the cheapest way to manufacture them, and academic cost-managers _DO_ care about the cost of toner in your laser printer.

I think we should all go back to the H-19 displays Heathkit used to put out: Yellow (sometimes Green) text on a dark background. They displayed 80 symbols per line!


-- (Filter QRM for direct replies)

Reply to
Bill Horne

The service was on a per-exchange basis. If you wanted the service from more than one originating exchange, you had to subscribe to the service and pay for it for each exchange. Wes Leatherock

Reply to

Amber or green (black background) VT-100 terminals were among the most readable displays I've seen or used. Wes Leatherock

Reply to

The other benefit is that depending on the 800 carrier you're using, they'll deliver real time ANI as CLID. You get the actually billing number and they cannot block it.

Reply to
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