The Telecom Digest for April 11, 2010
Volume 29 : Issue 100 : "text" Format
Messages in this Issue:
Toll-Free 855 Coming Soon, to Join Toll-Free 800, 888, 877, 866 Area Codes (Mark J. Cuccia)
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Date: Sat, 10 Apr 2010 20:44:55 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Mark J. Cuccia" <email@example.com>
Subject: Toll-Free 855 Coming Soon, to Join Toll-Free 800, 888, 877, 866 Area Codes
On Friday night, 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
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
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
Mark J. Cuccia
markjcuccia at yahoo dot com
Lafayette LA, formerly of New Orleans LA pre-Katrina
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