The Rise and Development of 800 Numbers

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 “IN-WATS” 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 Processing Method”.

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
in 2010.

Learn more about toll free and 1 800 numbers:

All about a Toll Free Number

1 800 Numbers to Boost Your Business Image

Calculating Your ROI on Toll Free Numbers

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