ICB Toll Free (800/888) News by: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News
Friday September 05 1997 at 11:28:25 AM EDT


It took 30 years to deplete 800 numbers It's only taken 18 months to deplete 888.

New York, NY US - New York, NY 09/05/97 (ICB TOLL FREE NEWS) It took 30 years to deplete 800 numbers It's only taken 18 months to deplete 888.

671,947 888-numbers were pulled from the toll-free database by the nation's carriers in August alone, leaving only 2.89 million 888 numbers left in the database as of last week. Clearly, there aren't that many more users, nor that much more user traffic. Indeed, there are indications that internet sales and customer service are beginning to share marketshare with 800 service.

Yet any day now, the industry, directed by the FCC, will announced toll-free number rationing, to last through the introduction of 877 in April, 1998.

Who’s the culprit? Primarily, telco’s who eat up toll-free numbers for breakfast, anticipating ever-growing inventory needs for data services such as pagers. Why the industry hasn’t assigned data services their own toll-free area codes to pillage, only the FCC knows for sure.

Another new source of toll-free number cannibalism, interestingly, is adult entertainment companies -- sex phone lines -- who grab as many high-traffic misdial numbers as they can and point them to sex services. Obviously, enough callers convert to paid customers to make this worthwhile. Isn't that special.

Meanwhile, legitimate business users who rely on toll-free numbers for traditional sales and customer service use, aren’t the only victims here. Adding lousy timing to the mix, RBOCS who are just entering the long distance business, will feel the impact of rationing big-time, for the most part having to completely suspend any planned marketing of toll-free services with their new long-distance services.

Given the fierce competition between local and long distance companies for territory and marketshare, one wonders if the long distance companies who've gauged the 888 resource didn't mind the incidental disruptive impact this would have on their new-rival RBOCS.

No conspiracy theories suggested, just thinking out loud.

Author/Correspondent's Profile: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News

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