What to Expect for Toll Free Numbers in 2018
Like the financial markets, most business owners prefer to operate in a consistent environment, with a clear view of what's happening in their industry. That being said, in our business sector the future of toll free numbers - commonly called 800 numbers - is not certain as we enter 2018. In September of 2017, the FCC proposed a number of rule changes that, if passed, would significantly change how toll free numbers are managed and assigned. With those proposals still waiting in the wings, it pays to take a look at what could happen over the next twelve months and how it could affect your business.
The Future of Toll Free Numbers in 2018While the proposed changes will not affect the many advantages that toll free numbers offer their end users - or how effective they are when used in marketing campaigns - there are implications for how end users reserve new toll free numbers, and what the cost to do so might be. The following are a few things we can expect for toll free numbers in 2018:
Business As Usual... For NowFor the first half of the year, it's fair to say that we can expect little to no changes in the way toll free numbers are adminstered. This is because the aforementioned proposals have barely passed through the comments period, which itself can drag out across several months, and they are far from guaranteed to change after the feedback is reviewed. With major politicized issues on the table, such as the future of net neutrality, changes to toll free number administration will not rank high on the FCC’s to-do list. What’s more, the chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is a former Verizon lawyer, and he has repeatedly demonstrated that he is partial to Verizon’s stance on many issues. Considering Verizon submitted a dissenting comment on the proposed rule changes for toll free, there could be a fairly significant battle to pass any of the new rules. Therefore, it is safe to say that for the first half of 2018 at least, no changes will take effect.
Temporary Upheaval, If the Proposed 833 Auction PassesIf the proposed 833 number auction system passes at the FCC, it could uproot many of the administrative processes involved in toll free number administration that exist today. Currently, end users must rely on a RespOrg to find and reserve new phone numbers. RespOrgs reserve phone numbers on a first-come, first-served basis, and once a number is reserved, it is no longer available to other end users. The 833 number auction system would change this process by putting the reservation of numbers on hold for a certain period until other RespOrgs, acting on behalf of their clients, have a chance to bid on the number if it is perceived as high value. Such a change would significantly slow down the new number reservation process. It could also mean trouble for small companies seeking to obtain a vanity 833 number. In theory, companies with deeper pockets than the little guy could easily outbid them for that number. How exactly this new auction system will work is speculation at this point—the exact rules and procedures on what the 833 auction would look like have not yet been drafted. What we can say, however, is should the auction rules pass, the process by which end users obtain new toll free numbers stands to get a little - or perhaps a lot - more complicated. [search-tag]
A Secondary Market for Toll Free Numbers in 2018?In reality, this one is likely to take longer than the year to shake out, but the groundwork has been laid and a secondary market for phone numbers would mark a major change for everyone involved. The proposed rule changes do away with a few longstanding rules, including the brokering rule, the warehousing rule, and the hoarding rule. These rules have long been in place to prevent end users and RespOrgs from buying and selling toll free numbers. In the 1990’s, when these rules were created, the telecom industry recognized and agreed to the assertion that phone numbers are a public resource, and as such they should not be bought or sold for profit. The outlook on this assertion has changed gradually over the past 30 years, and today there is strong support for allowing end users to buy and sell high value vanity phone numbers, particularly since these are often used as part of a company’s brand and trademark. Should the secondary markets be established, phone numbers with vanity value may become available for purchase. Companies seeking a specific phone number for their business could, in some cases, find such numbers more accessible. Small businesses will have greater access to phone numbers that may have already been reserved under the first-come-first-served system. There are those who would argue that such secondary markets will free up massive inventories of unused or underused phone numbers for these businesses. The important point to note here is that none of the proposed changes are certain to take effect. Therefore, the industry will have to wait and see how the FCC determines what to change, if anything, after their review of the comments submitted during the comments period. For business owners interested in the future of toll free numbers in 2018, the telecom industry, and other changes that might affect your marketing, stay updated by bookmarking our blog or following along on Facebook and Linkedin. To reserve a toll free number for your business, browse by category here or contact us to find the right number for you.
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