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Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about authoritative telephone number ownership with these common questions.

What is a RespOrg?

RespOrg stands for Responsible Organization and is the subscriber of record for a given toll free number. Read more in our article: 

What is a Toll-Free Number and How Does it Work?

Toll-free numbers (TFNs) give customers a free and convenient way to contact businesses, and are most commonly used for customer-service.

There are benefits to the use of toll-free numbers for both businesses and consumers. They allow customers to reach businesses outside their area without being charged a long-distance free, and the charge for using the number is paid by the business they're calling -- not them. For businesses, TFN's provide the opportunity of a more memorable phone number (or vanity number), and the ability to route multiple numbers to a particular local telephone number.

You've probably seen TFNs advertised by businesses you're familiar with. They begin with one of the following three-digit codes: 800, 888, 877, 855, 844, or 833.

How are Toll-Free Numbers managed?

These numbers are assigned first-come, first-serve by the Federal Communiciations Commission (FCC) who has appointed Somos to manage the SMS/800 database. They oversee the TFNRegistry™, which shows the current status of all toll-free numbers. Their user interface is used by Responsible Organizations (RespOrgs) to manage toll-free numbers, and companies are certified as RespOrg's through Somos.

Toll free subscribers choose RespOrg's to reserve numbers on their behalf and to manage and administer the appropriate records for the toll free subscribers.

How did Docket 86-10 Change Toll-Free Numbers?

FCC Docket 86-10, introduced in 1985, mandated the creation of a national toll-free database. This docket was pivotal in establishing toll-free number portability and the establishment of Responsible Organizations (RespOrgs). The implementation took several years, but it fundamentally changed the way toll-free services operated, allowing for greater flexibility and resilience in telecommunication services, including the provision of disaster recovery capabilities for toll-free numbers.

What’s WATS?

Wide Area Telephone Service aka WATS was the beginning of toll-free number usage in the United States. It was a flat-rate, long-distance telephone service introduced by The Bell Company. The plan allowed businesses to obtain a certain chunk of hours worth of calling to a specific geographic area. Limitations of the system included: prefixes tied to specific geographic destinations; special fixed-rate trunks that were not affordable to small businesses; no means to select between rival carriers; and, limited possibility for vanity numbering. Simply put: a subscriber would need three separate numbers to be reachable from Canada, US interstate, and US intrastate. As a result, the WATS system became obsolete with the development of other flat-rate systems and intelligent networks, but it established the initial framework of toll-free.

What are the benefits of working with a RespOrg?

Responsible Organizations – known most commonly as RespOrgs – are companies that are certified by SOMOS to manage toll-free numbers. RespOrgs have direct access to the SMS/800 database and maintain registrations for toll-free numbers. 

The process to become a RespOrg is lengthy and expensive…but, working with a RespOrg that allows you access to data about your telephone numbers has many benefits for your business. Suddenly, your data is in your control rather than your carriers. You have the ability to create redundancy using multiple carriers, can save money through low cost routing, and have access to information regarding spoofing and fraud. 

During a time where telephone numbers have a direct impact on your brand and identity, a RespOrg provides security and control.

What is vanity numbering?

Vanity numbering allows businesses to have more memorable phone numbers for branding purposes by creating numbers that spell out a word. Such as 1-800-DOMINOS or 1-800-FLOWERS. 

What is "Right to Use"?

“Right to Use” is the foundation of Telephone Number Authoritative Ownership. 

In the telecom industry, the "right to use" in regards to telephone numbers typically refers to the entitlement granted to a subscriber or service provider to use a specific telephone number. This concept encompasses several key aspects:

  1. Allocation and Assignment: The regulatory authority or an assigned body (such as the North American Numbering Plan Administrator in the U.S.) allocates blocks of numbers to telecom service providers, who then assign individual numbers to their customers.
  2. Usage Rights: The subscriber does not own the telephone number but has the right to use it as long as they adhere to the terms and conditions set by the service provider and regulatory guidelines.
  3. Portability: Subscribers have the right to port (transfer) their number to another service provider if they switch services, ensuring continuity and convenience.
  4. Compliance: The right to use is contingent upon compliance with regulatory policies, such as rules against number hoarding and ensuring numbers are used for legitimate purposes.
  5. Revocation and Reassignment: The right to use can be revoked under certain conditions, such as non-payment of service charges or regulatory breaches. The number can then be reassigned to another subscriber after a quarantine period.

Overall, "right to use" ensures that while subscribers have control and access to their telephone numbers, the numbers remain under the regulatory framework and control of the governing authorities.