TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Enterprise Numbers Still in Use?

Enterprise Numbers Still in Use?
14 Jul 2005 07:27:07 -0700

Someone on the railroad newsgroup said Enterprise numbers are still in
use. (Enterprise numbers were manually reached through the operator
and served as toll-free lines prior to 800 direct dialed service. The
operator had a table in which she converted the Enterprise number to
an actual telephone number and placed the call, billing the

I don't think he's correct.

He said:

> They are still in use, yes. Their purpose is different from 800
> numbers, as it gave the called party the ability to restrict
> incoming calls to selected areas of his choosing, areas as small as
> a single exchange. That's never been available with 800 numbers.

[public replies please]

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: He is wrong, but so are you. 'Enterprise'
numbers (they were called 'Zenith' in many places; 'Enterprise' was
the Bell System word; I think 'Zenith' was the word used by GTE and
some others) are now pretty much grandfathered to existing subscribers
(basically long time customers since the 1970's?) who wanted to keep
them. I do not think you can order new Enterprise/Zenith service, but
it is there for people who always had it and wanted to keep it. But
if you give it up, (or move, or otherwise change your service) that's
it. Don't ask for it back.

And he is wrong in saying they were 'different'. They were the same
thing, regards restrictions on calling areas, etc. In the earliest
days of '800 service', out of the 600-plus possible 'prefixes'
possible in any area code (using the exclusion of '0' or '1' as the
first digit rule) those three digit code prefixes were assigned to
every type of restriction possible: Bands one through six for each
state; band eight (intrastate) for your state only' your community
only, etc. Band one was always the states immediatly adjacent to
your state, _but not including your own (intrastate) calls_; band two
was the next 'ring' of states beyond the band one area; the bands
got a bit larger as they expanded outward. Essentially the types of
'In-WATS' service were the same as the outward WATS bands. Hawaii
and Alaska were not included in WATS; they were coin-rated calls.
Sometime in the middle 1970's the band six areas (relative to
wherever you were located) were combined with band five points and
Alaska/Hawaii were made band six to everyone in the continental
USA. The three digit prefix in your 800 number said what was or
was not included, i.e. "the number you have dialed is not included
in your calling plan" was the intercept message given to people who
tried to dial 800-621-xxxx who were not in Illinois, for example,
since 800-621 was assigned to in-WATS subscribers in Illinois who
had requested Band 8 (Illinois intrastate only) service.

On in-WATS (as opposed to out-WATS service) calls were always
translated to some 'regular' seven-digit number. For instance at
Amoco, in-WATS calls (I forget which band) were actually translated
into WELlington-5-1389 if memory serves me. Out-WATS on the other
hand went out and were billed to '146-0000' or something equally
non-dialable, i.e a 'dedicated line'; they had to be on separate
instruments or at least separate lines. Now today, in 2005, we
would say, like Shakespeare, "Much Ado About Nothing". The costs for
long distance calls have gone down to about nothing anyway, although
back then, if you bought long distance service in bulk, by the hour,
it was also less expensive than 'regular' service. But there became
a time at which it was just totally impractical to keep trying to
save money by the way you divided up pennies.

You may _possibly_ be able to purchase 'banded' WATS service, either
in or out-bound from telco; I just have not kept up on it. I know
most telecom companies do not supply banded service any longer (when
I was at Amoco in Chicago, quite literally if I had used a 'Band 1'
line and dialed 213-anything, the call would have gotten intercepted
with a 'not in your calling area' recording, just as people in
the 213 area who tried to dial 800-621 anything. Somewhere in our
archives there is a chart telling the description of each 800 prefix
as to what state it was in, and the limits or range of its incoming
calls. I strongly suspect your railroad newsgroup person, unless he
was around prior to divestiture (hardly anyone is, these days) would
recall 'banded' WATS service. But obviously he remembers all about
Enterprise service, which _you_ don't. They were designed to do the
_same thing_, only with manual service instead of automated service;
that is, place an 'automatically accepted' collect call, no need for
an operator to get a verbal okay on accepting the charges. Lisa, would
you do me a favor please and post this in your railroad newsgroup
as a response for me? Thanks.

Oh, by the way, there was a Band Seven also, although rarely used. While
one through six were increasing larger geographic areas of the USA
(or in the case of Canadian WATS service in Canada) and band eight was
always intrastate _your state only_, band seven, as obscure as it was,
was _your community only_. If you only wanted to accept collect calls
automatically from the Chicago area and _you were in Chicago_ that was
treated as band seven. In Enterprise service days, Rate and Route
(815+161 when the operator dialed it to inquire what to do) would
advise 'in the Chicago exchange only, dial 312-xxx-xxxx'. And where the
operators had a 'flip chart' at their fingertips with the most common
Enterprise number translations, such as airlines, credit card
companies, etc, for more obscure or less well-known Enterprise numbers
the operator had to call Rate and Route (in Morris, Illinois 815+161)
to get advice. Eventually, band seven was replaced in most places
with special prefixes in a regular area code doing the same thing.
In other words, anyone in Chicago 312 could dial (I think it was)
312-920-xxxx to get the desired 'auto-collect' place they were
calling. In Kansas, until a couple years ago, 620-870 got you a 'free'
call to the Cingular Wireless switch here in Independence, then one
day Cingular Wireless told customers they would have to pay to stay
on that switch since 'we discontinued the special deal we had with
Southwestern Bell'. Anyway Lisa, tell your newsgroup person about
this won't you please? Thanks. PAT]

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