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Washington, D.C. 20554
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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
FCC ADOPTS DECISION ON ASSIGNMENT OF TOLL FREE VANITY
The Commission today issued an Order stating that vanity numbers in the new
877 toll free code and future toll free codes shall be assigned on a first-come, first-served
basis as each code is deployed. Subscribers of certain vanity numbers in the 800 toll free
code, however, are granted the right of first refusal for a limited amount of
corresponding vanity numbers in the 888 code that were set aside pending the
Commission's decision. The Commission said today's Order will further its goals of
promoting the efficient, fair, and orderly allocation of toll free numbers.|
A vanity number is a telephone number for which the letters associated with the number's digits on the telephone spell a name or word of value to the subscriber. Since the 800 toll free code was introduced in 1967, vanity numbers have been assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. As the supply of 800 numbers dwindled and deployment of the second toll free code, 888, approached, holders of 800 vanity numbers expressed interest in obtaining the corresponding vanity number in the 888 code. Rather than delay deployment of the 888 code, the Common Carrier Bureau ordered the numbers at issue to be set aside until the Commission resolved how they should be assigned. The 888 toll free code was introduced in 1996, with 374,199 of the approximately 8 million numbers marked set aside and unavailable. The third toll free code, 877, is scheduled to be introduced on April 5, 1998.
In today's Order, the Commission concluded that assigning vanity numbers in 877 and future toll free codes on a first-come, first-served basis will ensure fair allocation of numbers by granting no class of subscribers a preference. A first-come, first-served process is also the most efficient method for assigning toll free numbers because it is the most easily administered and least expensive way to allocate numbers. In addition, a first-come, first-served process ensures an orderly allocation of toll free numbers because it avoids disputes among subscribers over who is entitled to a particular number.
The Commission concluded that if incumbent subscribers were granted the right of first refusal for vanity numbers every time a new toll free code is deployed, new subscribers would be denied the opportunity to obtain certain desirable numbers. Moreover, the seven digits in a vanity number may spell a variety of words that may be of use to a variety of businesses, and a right of first refusal could prevent newcomers to the market from using letter combinations that would otherwise be available. A right of first refusal could also accelerate depletion of numbers as incumbent subscribers would likely request corresponding vanity numbers as each toll free code is deployed. In addition, the Commission noted that numbers are a public resource in which subscribers do not acquire property rights.
The Commission nevertheless found that a right of first refusal is the most appropriate allocation method for the 888 vanity numbers initially set aside. Although 888 numbers are now in widespread use, the Commission expressed concern that consumers are still adjusting to the environment of multiple toll free codes. As a result, the problems of customer confusion, misdialing, and new toll free subscribers benefitting from the marketing efforts of 800 subscribers with corresponding vanity numbers are likely to be most serious in the case of the first post-800 toll free code. As subsequent toll free codes are introduced, there will be an increased consumer awareness and instances of confusion and misdialing will be reduced. The Commission noted that providing this limited right of first refusal would not involve the inefficiencies or administrative burdens that would result if a right of first refusal was extended to all toll free codes.
Noting several disadvantages associated with such a requirement, the Commission declined to impose a fee in connection with the right of first refusal for the set aside 888 numbers. For example, the Commission found that the cost and administrative effort required to implement such a fee plan would outweigh any benefits a fee may provide, and such a plan may unfairly prejudice small businesses.
Set aside 888 vanity numbers will be available for assignment 90 days after 877 is deployed. If the subscriber to the corresponding 800 vanity number refrains from subscribing to the set aside 888 number, the 888 number will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Action by the Commission March 27, 1998, by Fourth Report and Order and Memorandum Opinion and Order (FCC 98-48). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Powell, and Tristani, with Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth dissenting in part and issuing a separate statement.
News media contact: Rochelle Cohen at (202) 418-0253.