Individuals and companies can obtain an 800 or toll-free telephone number by contacting a toll-free service provider that assigns an available number and transmits information to a service control point to activate it. Other toll-free prefixes including 844, 855, 866, 877 and 888, are available as well.
Toll-free numbers were introduced to enable consumers to dial calls that would otherwise require a toll or be placed as collect calls, thus relieving the workload of telephone operators. They quickly grew in popularity as businesses recognized their value and consumers came to expect them. Individuals and families often obtain a toll-free number for home-based businesses or to allow children away at school or others to call them easily. The popularity of toll-free numbers continues to grow as of 2015; the increased popularity has depleted the supply of numbers with the 800 prefix and necessitated the introduction of 844, 855, 866, 877, and 888 prefixes.
Individuals or companies that want a toll-free number can contact a toll-free service provider, sometimes known as a Responsible Organization or RespOrg, that has access to the SMS/800 database, the tool that administers the distribution of numbers. The RespOrg assigns a number according to its availability as shown on the database. If someone requests a vanity number, one that spells out a word such as 1-800-NUMBERS, the RespOrg can check the database to determine if the number is available and reserve it, or assign an alternative. The RespOrg then downloads a call routing plan to a service control point that activates the number.