Toll Free 800 Number History

The following was posted on the local-calling-guide mailing list on April 10, 2010 and is posted here with the author's kind permission.

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

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

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

See Also

Created by: admin, Last modification: Sun 11 of Apr, 2010 (05:39 UTC)
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