855-GOLD RUSH OR WASTE OF TIME?

On October 2, 2010 the new 855 code will be released to the approximately 400 RespOrgs.  There has been a flurry of offers on how to get you what you consider the hot numbers.  Some are legitimate and others – not so much.  What is the reality of the release and how valuable are these numbers?  Let me say up front that the following comments are just my opinion, but after 25 years in the toll free RespOrg and Regulatory world it is at least an educated opinion.

If you are reading this on the blog, www.atlc.com or the LinkedIn RespOrg group I will be covering this subject in three parts.

  1. 855 code release-the basics.
  2. A review of the sites that are presently advertising ability to get numbers for customers.
  3. Is this selling numbers?

Part 1

Are the offers to get numbers for real?

To answer that question you first need to know who will have the best chance of getting the numbers because not all options are created equal.  There are there three ways of getting numbers on October 2.  These are in order of the chances, least to most.

  1. Manual – All RespOrgs have manual access to SMS* through either WBA or “3270.”  3270 is the original dumb terminal emulation, but surprisingly it is still faster than WBA, the newer GUI interface.  Although the GUI is easier to navigate, the very programming that makes it easier also makes it slower.  A number of RespOrgs do not know how to use 3270, as it has been going out for years, but has been saved by those of us who rely on it.
  2. MGI- Mechanized Generic Interface was designed in the 80’s to interface with the then Bell Operating Companies.  It has always been very expensive, but there are a few Non-bell Companies that have it and use it with a custom programming using newer technology.
  3. Specially designed software – Some RespOrgs have designed software specifically for sweeping the SMS system to get specific numbers.  These take different forms like screen scrapers or just large numbers of SMS logon IDs to get greater access. 

The thing you need to consider is how many other people will be looking for the same number.  This is the fifth “gold rush” situation that my company has been through and it still surprises me how valuable the public sees these releases.  800-555 was the first release.  MCI had all the numbers within minutes.  888 was the next, but was somewhat different because it allowed for “replication.”  Replication allowed for companies to pre-reserve numbers if they had the 800 duplicate, so 800-FLOWERS was allowed to pre-reserve 888-FLOWERS.  Although suggested for the 877 and 866 release, the FCC ruled out the option.  There was some discussion in SNAC** about this for the 855 release, but not enough support at this time. 

The most similar to 855 was the 866 and 877 releases.  Hopefully in the 855 release there will be one major difference.  In both 877 and 866 SMS had major issues that locked out manual users in the first few minutes of the process which may explain some of the outcomes.  DSMI*** has assured SNAC that there have been fixes installed in the system to avoid that in the 855 release. 

Here are some things that happened in the earlier releases.

Every RespOrg has an option for reserving 855 numbers on October 2, so let me say first, talk to your current RespOrg.  If you don’t know who your RespOrg is you can call 888-SMS-3300 and find out. Your RespOrg may already have plans for specific systems that will increase your chances for getting your numbers.  Many RespOrgs are working off of first come; first serve, so you want to do this soon. 

*SMS Service Management System

This is the organization and system that administers the centralized management of Toll Free numbers.  All toll free numbers are routed through this system. 

**SNAC SMS/800 Number Administration Committee

SNAC identifies, develops, and implements the resolution of issues impacting existing toll free products and services and evolving technologies affecting future developments in the toll free industry.  The committee is part of ATIS.  Currently there are about eight or ten active RespOrgs in ATIS.  Although membership is open to all RespOrgs, the cost is prohibitive for many.  ATL RespOrg Services is an active member. 

***DSMI Database Service Management, Inc.

When toll free number portability was launched in 1993 the FCC designated DSMI as the toll free administrator.  DSMI has a board that was originally made up of the seven Bell Operating companies.  Since merger and acquisitions there are currently only three board members.

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