What role does the FCC play in toll free phone numbers?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates the use of toll-free numbers and establishes rules on how they can be obtained and used.

Launched in 1967 by AT&T, 800 numbers came under the purview of the FCC in the 1980s when the phone service monopoly broke apart. In 1991, the FCC required that toll-free numbers be portable, meaning that a toll-free number subscriber can “port” his or her number to a new provider when changing toll-free number service providers.

When the popular 800 numbers became scarce, the FCC introduced the 888 and 877 numbers in the mid-1990s and the 866 pre-fix in 2000. Available stock of toll free numbers is quickly depleting and industry insiders are awaiting the release of the 855 numbers currently reserved by the FCC. Insiders say these numbers may not be released for several years.

FCC’s rules designate the criteria for determining the status of each toll-free number, and prohibit “warehousing” and “hoarding” of toll-free numbers. However, the FCC does not oversee the assignment of toll-free numbers and does not have direct access to the toll-free number database maintained by the 800 Services Management System (SMS/800).

The FCC cannot provide any information about the status of a toll-free number or a request for a toll-free number on behalf of a customer. The FCC cannot reserve or hold numbers for a customer but they can mediate conflicts that arise over rights of ownership of specific numbers.

The FCC can intervene if they find a number is being used in a manner contrary to the established regulations. For instance, in 2005 the FCC took control of 1-800 RED-CROSS from a private owner and handed it over to the non-profit.

The value of toll free service has become a necessity for any type of business. The limited availability of new numbers and the limited turnover of used numbers have created an intense and competitive demand for 1-800, 888, 877 and 866 numbers. According to the FCC, popularity of toll free service has increased drastically over the past decade for both business and personal use.

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51 Responses

  1. more information can be found on the FCC website at http://www.fcc.gov/

  2. You can also search for vanity toll free numbers, directly into the national database at Toll Free Numbers.com

  3. Where can i get info on internation toll free numbers?

  4. Ok thank you for that

  5. Wow interesting information. very thoughtful

  6. Good ideas

  7. good point

  8. good point

  9. good point

  10. I should keep my words soft and sweet in case I have to eat them.

  11. HELLO – Sprint has starting doing this ages ago!!!!!!!!! With success!

  12. A word to the wise ain’t necessary — it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.

  13. I really wish that I could get the 800 number of my horrible hosting company. Man.

  14. Copying from a single source is called plagiarism, copying from multiple source is called research.

  15. Pressure makes diamonds.

  16. A friend is someone who has the same enemies you have.

  17. When in doubt, consult your inner child if it doesn’t come naturally, leave it.

  18. He who can, does. He who can’t, teaches.

  19. Noo, I can’t dial 1-800-MYLEMON!!!

  20. When godaddy first listed their phone number i was like… OMG its not 800!!! then i thought.. Via cell phone it’s alllll the same.

  21. use drums? use smoke signals? :)

  22. Being yourself is being the person everyone else wants you to be.

  23. When people call me I just always try to sound out-of-breath and harassed, but polite. It makes them talk faster.

  24. Having one child makes you a parent; having two makes you a referee.

  25. Speaking of financial institutions, State Farm Insurance/Bank has been using a voice authentication for about 2 years now. Their system has you repeat about 8 numbers back to it before you can use the telephone teller. I can honestly say that I have had less problems with their system than any other voice recognition/speaker recognition system.

  26. My PDF Download extension works fine with FFx 1.5

  27. just because you have a number doesn’t mean you’re going to be heard.

  28. interesting article. much appreciated

  29. I once had to call eBay… what a nightmare. I wish I’d never found their number, as the “service” was so horrible and the experience even worse.

    Nonetheless, this is a great resource to have handy – I’ve bookmarked it. Thanks for sharing this info with us.

  30. To bear failure with courage is the best proof of character that anyone can give.

  31. Phone call for Al…Al Coholic…is there an Al Coholic here?
    Wait a minute…
    Listen, you little yellow-bellied rat jackass, if I ever find out who you are, I’m gonna kill you!

  32. This is great marketing. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  33. how long will it take before the NSA starts using this, no more calling from phone booths, to hide your number

  34. […] He has also engaged in the practice of blog spamming whereas he will crawl through peoples blogs leaving comments advertising his own service. Even on our website he has left a number of solicitor advertisements. We found a number of blogs on the Internet where he has been ridiculed for blog spamming.  view vlad blog and smsgov comment #2 […]

  35. How do you use the free service

  36. Anything similar for the uk?

  37. Anything similar for the uk?

  38. […] He has also engaged in the practice of blog spamming whereas he will crawl through peoples blogs leaving comments advertising his own service. Even on our website he has left a number of solicitor advertisements. We found a number of blogs on the Internet where he has been ridiculed for blog spamming.  view vlad blog and smsgov comment #2 […]

  39. I should keep my words soft and sweet in case I have to eat them.

  40. Aim Low, Reach Your Goals, Avoid Disappointment.

  41. When godaddy first listed their phone number i was like… OMG its not 800!!! then i thought.. Via cell phone it’s alllll the same.

  42. very insightful

  43. Okay, I remember a trick back in high school that someone taught me but I’ve since forgot. They would pick up the phone, dial a number, and hang up the receiver a couple times. Several seconds later, the phone would ring continuously until someone picked it up. But there was no one on the other line. Anyone remember/know how to do that?

  44. use drums? use smoke signals? :)

  45. very good

  46. Speaker Verification has been around for years, and has been successfully deployed at quite a few financial institutions (Charles Schwab immediately comes to mind). This is not new technology — Nuance has had it working on numerous telephony platforms for at least five years. So I’m not quite sure why RSA is tooting their horns about this.

  47. A wise man does not need advice and a fool won’t take it.

  48. […] more here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Regulators Control Toll Free UseFCC Regulated […]

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