800 numbers, also known as toll free numbers, make it easier for your customers
to reach businesses. A perfect toll free number helps customers, employees and vendors
to reach companies easily from across the U.S and Canada at no extra cost. A toll
free number can be chosen from a list of available numbers or can be a custom number
that represents a particular business. With the passing years there has been a change
in the nature and characteristics of toll free numbers. This article discusses the
evolution of 800 numbers,
their different forms and also their changing characteristics.
Evolution of 800 Numbers
It was in the year 1960 that the United Kingdom introduced “Free phone” services
and its Post Office started a facility for business users. The service spread like
a wildfire and in the year 1967 AT&T rolled out a service in the U.S as an alternative
to collect calling and to reduce its need for operators. AT&T called this service
or “Inward Wide Area Telephone Service”. Originally, there was a company that hosted
numbers for companies that wanted to use this service - mostly big hotels and car
rental businesses that used the service for reservations. Although demand for the
service grew, the hosting company went out of business forcing the companies to
take matters into their own hands. They opened their own call centers and continued
using 800 numbers.
Second Generation of Toll Free Numbers
In the year 1978, Roy P. Weber from Bridgewater, New Jersey invented the second
generation of the 800 toll free number system. Weber’s U.S Patent number 4, 191,
860 was filed on July 13, 1978 and was issued on March 4, 1980. The patent was assigned
to AT&T and it started to use this new technology from Weber’s Patent in the year
1982. This new invention of Weber’s was called the “Data Base Communication Call
Liberalization of Toll Free Numbers
From 1967 until 1986, two years following the AT&T break-up in 1984, AT&T was an
absolute monopoly assigning 800 numbers. Billing was based on average usage per
connection, per month. During 1985 and 1986, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission)
and Federal Court that oversaw the divestment of AT&T and the consequent development
in the telecom industry, ordered for a fully portable toll free number system. The
liberalization of the
toll free numbers actually helped and encouraged its growth and development.
Owning Toll Free Numbers
Portability of 800 numbers ensures that that they no longer remain tied to any particular
service provider or carrier. So, now it is possible to change your service provider
without changing your toll free number. This further encouraged the growth of this
number because it saved companies’ investment. It is now a one time investment.
Once you have an 800 number you can use it forever. You can change your service
provider or your business but you can carry your number with you.
The New Era
The advent of
vanity numbers came shortly after the AT&T break-up of 1984. These numbers
helped businesses to make their phone numbers easily memorable to their customers.
So there developed such memorable vanity numbers as: 1 800 Go FEDEX or 1 800 Got
Junk? In 1996, the supply of 1 800 numbers became exhausted and new toll free prefixes
began to be introduced - 888 was introduced in 1996, 877 and 866 were introduced
in 1998 and 1999 respectively and the latest 855 was introduced
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