The Web's Definitive Area Code Resource



I often wonder if number pooling is going to be the magic pill everyone envisions.

Implemented to provision portability, it didn't do a thing for 800 numbers, whereas a service-specific toll-free code policy was such an obvious solution to the pseudo-800 shortage (at the time INC conjured up 888, over one third of 800's were assigned to pagers), that even the Small Business Administration endorsed its adoption to protect new/small businesses from discrimination in the marketplace (because they would be negatively impacted by assignment of non-branded toll free's for their marketing - ie, revenue generating - applications.)

Because a service-specific toll free code policy was rejected by the FCC, private trade in 800 numbers is UP (franchise protection 10, FCC 0); newer toll free customers are at a decided disadvantage; and the industry has suffered: according to a new Frost & Sullivan research report "U.S. Toll-Free Services Market", lack of public awareness of new toll free NPA's is resulting in reduced minutes of usage overall.

Even portability isn't necessarily well served:  carrier warehousing antics ensure that "first come first served", often isn't.

And of course, toll free number 'resource management', isn't at all.   Bad for customers.  Bad for the industry.  And bad, obviously,  for resource management.

In the interest of learning from mistakes, area code pundits might modify their opposition to service-specific codes.  Granted, enforcing such a policy on fax and modem lines is impractical at best, and most likely impossible.

But New York has proven that code-separation for pagers, works fine.  In today's world of the MacDonald's principal -- copy what works. Service-specific codes for pagers, works.  No doubt there are other number-draining applications it would work for too.

While I've got your attention, another toll free industry-model ripe for overhaul is the RespOrg system.

In domain-name land, a customer can get a domain name directly from the central database (Internic etc.), or via an ISP-type or related service provider -- an unnecessary intermediary, no doubt, but some people want an "account exec/manager" on their domain names and don't mind paying extra for the service.

The choice is the customer's, as it should be.

In toll-free land, however, the customer has to work through RespOrgs, entities that are certified to access toll free numbers from the central database and to issue instructions for porting and routing.  RespOrgs (short for Responsible Organization - let's not even go there) are charged with this task, solely, exclusively on behalf of and as agent for the customer of the toll free number.

At the advent of portability and the RespOrg system, carriers immediately signed on to be RespOrgs.  Not surprising, because as portability shook 800 numbers loose from carrier control, RespOrg status gave some of that control back.

It's been a chaotic tug of war between customer and RespOrg, ever since.

Back to the MacDonald's principal - if it works, copy it.  I suggest using the domain name system as the model.

In the case of toll free numbers, any company that bills for traffic on a portable (non-bundled service or non-shared-use) number should be prohibited from being a RespOrg on that number, as the conflict of interest - representing the user's interests (the RespOrg's mandate), versus representing its own carrier-entity interests  - is a no-brainer.

With carriers therefore "relieved" of the incentive to RespOrg, none likely would.  Account management could revert to third-party independent service companies with no carrier obligations, and to customers who choose to manage their own 800 number activity internally.

And one historical element of number and code exhaust - the RespOrg - would be removed from the equation.

Judith Oppenheimer
ICB Toll Free News (
ICB Consulting ( (

Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the contributing author.