Talk:Toll-free telephone number

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This rightly has {{globalize/USA}} attached. But I'm made to wonder: Is the term "toll-free" in use anywhere outside the US? Here in the UK, for instance, we pay tolls to drive over certain roads and bridges, not to make phone calls.

You could argue that the article was only intended to cover the US side of things. The problem with this is that many titles, such as Freephone and 0800, now redirect here.

On this basis, I think this page ought to be split into two pages:

-- Smjg (talk) 12:57, 5 October 2009 (UTC)

I agree it is confusing for UK readers (although I don't know what conventions are used in other countries around the world). Clearly this isn't too hot a topic though given that the discussion was opened 6 months ago and mine is the first comment. I'll make a mental note to revisit this page in a couple of months and if there's no more discussion then I'll make the changes. In terms of page name, Free telephone number is OK. I'd also link Free phone number to there as well (note the deliberate space to distinguish between the brand name of freephone number). I'm interested in hearing whether freephone is a brand that's only used in the UK or does that term apply in the US as well? I only ask so that we know where to redirect freephone to after the split......
Also, the name of the US version of the article I would call simply Toll-free number if that is the only place where that description is used. ChrisUK (talk) 20:07, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
I think you'll find the brand name is Freefone rather than freephone. But you're right that it would be useful to find out what terms are used where in the world.
Most of the Google hits for "toll-free" seem to be US-based. Though peculiarly, there's a UK company International Tollfree which, even more confusingly, supplies free phone numbers in various countries, but apparently not the implied +800. So I'm not sure ... but if we're going to put the US article under such a vague title, we'd need a dablink. -- Smjg (talk) 23:22, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

Excuse me if I haven't edited this correctly, as I am new to this. The item on this page that suggests toll-free or "freephone" calls are "free" in the UK is incorrect. Most telephone packages that provide a unlimited calls, or a number of free minutes (both landline and mobile phones) actually charge the call initiators for these calls. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:23, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

Calls normally are charged to the initiator. And what have free minutes provided by phone operators to do with this whatsoever? -- Smjg (talk) 00:31, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
I see your confusion Smjg, it's completely reasonable to think that free minutes are irrelevant, however unfortunately here in the UK, they are not quite unrelated. This is because mobile (cell) companies and a few landline companies will offer free minutes to normal numbers for a fixed monthly fee but bizarrely will then charge for "freephone" numbers. I completely agree with splitting this article, it's very heavily biased towards the US at the moment. I'd like to see the current page changed to a "did you mean" type page offering a US-centric page Toll-free telephone numbers in the United States - I think it's important that this name includes "United States" and a non-US specific page called Free telephone numbers - this should include a link to the US version. Is Freephone really a trade name?! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:04, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
Split declined. Article needs some attention, but creating two articles because of a slight difference in language between UK and USA is not Wikipedia policy. The concept of toll-free telephone number is the same regardless of dialect, and the name of this article is easily understood in British English. SilkTork *Tea time 23:29, 25 May 2011 (UTC)

I've just re-read my original comment and realised that I made a sudden change of subject between the first paragraph and the rest. My split proposal wasn't about the difference in terminology. I proposed it because there was, at the time, sufficient US-specific detail here to warrant moving it to a separate article.

In any case, I would still like a decision to be reached on a non-US-specific title to move this page to. See MOS:COMMONALITY. — Smjg (talk) 13:33, 27 June 2011 (UTC)

  • Split, don't move. The Toll-free telephone number#North America section is getting a bit long and should be split out to a separate article on area code 800 or toll-free telephone numbers in North America, leaving just the global info here with just a brief entry for each country. The RespOrg and WATS bits are rather specific to +1-800 (or its overlays). The intrastate/interstate and intraLATA/interLATA nonsense is FCC-contrived and US-specific, much of it tied to AT&T divestiture, the commerce clause or other country-specific regulatory constructs. The UK skipped InWATS entirely, going from directly manual freephone to 0800 LinkLine in 1985. If the least-cost routing and intelligent network capabilities exist in other countries' modern systems, move that information into the main body of this article. The NANP-specific bits should go into an article about the NANP +1-800 numbers. There's also a huge amount of unsourced material which needs to be cleaned up. This is an issue independent of the terminology question ("freephone" vs. "toll-free", as "toll" crept into the lexicon primarily in places where local calls are flat-rated) (talk) 18:10, 27 December 2013 (UTC)


I was reading a proposal by the CPUC that referred to "8YY" which the document defined as "800 or 800-like ... toll-free services". Is that a generally used term that should be added to the article? The "8YY" use is on page 5 of this proposal for basic telephone service revisions. --Elijah (talk) 01:01, 18 February 2011 (UTC)

Most likely, 8YY is a catch-all for a series of area codes... 844, 855, 866, 877, 888 and 800. No advantage to "8YY" vs. using "toll-free number" as the latter is broad enough to include domestic toll-free services in other countries which number things differently. K7L (talk) 04:21, 31 October 2013 (UTC)


I think Hungary's freephone prefix should be listed as 0680. Technically, the area code is 80, but there's no way to call a freephone number without the 06 part. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:31, 10 March 2011 (UTC)


How comes Lester Wunderman isn't mentioned in this article? To some, he's the inventor of the toll-free number. And at least, he made it big. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:22, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

That article does pretty much try to claim he invented the sun, the stars and the moon but doesn't explain how he is the "inventor" of toll-free numbers and postal codes if he has no clear ties to any telephone companies or postmasters. K7L (talk) 04:26, 31 October 2013 (UTC)

Freephone in the United Kingdom[edit]

Which year did the direct dial 0800 freephone numbers start being used in the UK and how many digits were in those numbers? - (talk) 22:41, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
"Linkline (later "Freefone") 0800 services by British Telecom on 12 November 1985" appear to be the first direct-dial UK freephone, not sure how many digits. (talk) 17:06, 27 December 2013 (UTC)


The first section, "History" need to be completely re-written as it is entirely incomprehensable. Thanks. (talk) 16:29, 23 January 2013 (UTC)

Most likely, the "History" and "Growth as a business tool" sections need to be combined, restructured, then split into some sort of timeline - starting with Zenith number and "ask the operator for freephone (whatever)", then Wide Area Telephone Service, then the modern toll-free system (so the RespOrgs, the Primetel abuses and the overlay plan numbers come last). Not sure if history in NANP vs. history in other countries should be split to different sections, it seems +1-800 is overwhelming info on freephone elsewhere. K7L (talk) 12:33, 31 October 2013 (UTC)

'Res City', Omaha Nebraska[edit]

Is there a source for all of this text about all the early hotel reservation numbers on band 3 InWATS in Nebraska? The info looks plausible but a web search mostly turns up WP:CIRCULAR links to sites which cribbed the answers from Wikipedia. K7L (talk) 12:33, 31 October 2013 (UTC)

I'm moving this entire block of text to the talk page as there is still no source for anything.

Growth of 800 toll-free numbers as a business tool[edit]

It has been suggested that this page be merged into Toll-free telephone number#History. Proposed since December 2013.

The North American +1-800 toll free area code, as originally implemented in the 1960s, was technologically primitive. Instead of providing detailed, per-minute billing of incoming calls, it relied on a flat-rate long distance plan (the Wide Area Telephone Service) which used special lines. The toll-free subscriber was required to lease enough inbound lines, with flat-rate inbound long distance on each, to handle the anticipated +1-800 call volume. US interstate toll-free coverage was sold in "bands" or zones, numbered 1 (adjacent states) through 5 (cross-country, entire continental US). The higher the band, the more expensive the line. Band 3 reached halfway across the US in every direction, so would suffice to cover all 47 states (Alaska and Hawaii excluded, intrastate covered separately on another number) if the call centre were in the geographic center of the country, namely Nebraska. The initial call centers gravitated by necessity to this one arbitrarily central point.

The first company to use toll-free lines hosted numbers for major companies. Americana Hotels, Budget Rent a Car, Hyatt Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Rodeway Inns, Sheraton Hotels, and Quality Inn were a few of the major companies hosted. It grew very quickly but still went out of business. When this happened, all the major players reacted by leasing space in and behind that original call center location (93rd and Bedford in Omaha, Nebraska) in strip malls[citation needed] so they could continue to answer their toll-free calls and also rehire the already-trained staffing and management. Northwestern Bell and AT&T dedicated staff to the "Res City" area and their staff actually had offices located in the same strip malls[citation needed] to help make the transition and service the accounts going forward. That corner of 93rd and Bedford became known as "Res City" because of all the call centers taking reservations there.

As the call centers continued to compete for the same talent pool, the larger chains relocated into buildings specifically built for them near the area while others moved outside of the state to avoid the direct competition for staffing.

Northwestern Bell and AT&T continued to cater to the businesses in Omaha and would activate service within 24 hours for clients in Omaha, giving Omaha a major advantage over other locations that would have to wait weeks for service. In 1983, Northwestern Bell and AT&T in conjunction with Telesystems and First Data Resources/WATS Marketing, developed a method to use Direct Inward Dialing (DID) to handle traffic so call centers no longer had to have dedicated lines or trunk groups as they are called, to handle each telephone number. This was a major improvement in call center call flow design and this type of called number identification is still used by call centers today.[citation needed]

IN-WATS service had some limitations. Billing for IN-WATS was based on average hours usage per line per month. This type of billing required users to adjust their active lines based on actual peak hour usage to avoid buying hours at higher low tier rates. Also users could not obtain call detail information on the calls received without paying for special studies completed weeks after the calls had been received.

From 1967 until around 1986, two years following the 1984 AT&T breakup, AT&T had an absolute monopoly on assigning 800 numbers to subscribing customers.[citation needed]

During 1985 and 1986, the FCC and the Federal Courts which oversaw the divestiture of AT&T and subsequent developments in the telecom industry ordered an eventual fully competitive portable numbering system for toll-free numbers. The local Bell telephone companies (now separated from AT&T) and Bellcore would manage the databases for full number portability. However, it would take some time before this system could be fully developed, tested, and implemented across the country. No firm date was determined at that time for activating this database system nor the management of such a system. New methods of telephone network signaling systems (SS7) were still under development and still needed to be implemented. In the meantime, starting about 1986, the Federal Government ordered Bellcore to assign specific 800-NXX codes to specific long-distance carriers. Thus, from 1986 to 1993 toll-free customers were locked into a system that led them to the telephone carrier like AT&T or MCI that assigned them their 800 number, based on the first six-digits (the 800-NXX code) of their full 800 number. By 1991 the FCC ordered that by May 1, 1992, full number portability would need to be in place nationwide, since the number database system and various peripherals and administrative functions were now available throughout the country. However, shortly before May 1992, the FCC and the telephone industry determined that the full implementation would need to be postponed for another year. May 1, 1993 was the actual date when full 800 number portability was effective throughout the United States.[citation needed] Canada fully joined in the U.S. 800-number portability system a year later in May 1994. Canadian 800 service developed in parallel with U.S. 800 service in the 1960s and 70s, and by 1984, "crossborder" 800 service finally became available, where (upon the called customer's option), a U.S.-based 800 number could now be called from Canada, and vice-versa.[citation needed]

800 number portability means that toll-free numbers are no longer associated with a particular telephone carrier such as AT&T or MCI. 800 subscribers can switch to another carrier without changing their toll-free number. Starting in the early 1990s, Toll-Free 800 Service became a viable business tool with the use of "vanity numbers" such as 1-800-FLOWERS. With these changes, rates have continued to fall and the majority of large users are now buying toll-free services for less than 2 cents per minute[citation needed].