Understanding your Telephone Bill: Monthly Fees for Toll Free Numbers

By Ken Rothacker

This is part three in our ongoing series about understanding your phone bill. Here is the next question you should ask before you sign on the dotted line:

What do you charge for toll-free numbers? In the past, toll-free meant 800 number service. Now, toll-free exchanges including 888, 877, and 866 have been added. So now you will often see toll-free service referred to as “8XX” service. Telcordia (once part of AT&T, and known as Bellcore) is the company that oversees 8XX service for all service providers. For example, when you get a new toll-free number ringing in to your main line, the information about your carrier, your toll-free number, and your phone number all go into Telcordia’s database, called SMS. When your toll-free number is dialed, SMS is part of the magic that delivers the call to you.

Telcordia charges carriers a monthly fee for maintaining 8XX numbers in SMS. That fee is the same no matter how many calls are carried on the 8XX number. As with the other charges, carriers determine what they will charge users. Some may charge nothing, but most charge around $5 per month, per number. These charges can quickly become a major line item for customer with many 8XX numbers. A customer with a large number of low-use 8XX numbers may unprofitable to the carrier unless the carrier covers their costs by charging a per-number fee.

Strategy: Find out what monthly fees (if any) you will be paying for your toll-free numbers, other than the usage. While you’re at it, verify what your per-minute usage costs will be.

While this might be a question that your rep doesn’t want to get into, knowing this information empowers you to compare programs accurately and positions you to make the best decision for your business.

In the next issue we will cover Billing Increments and Minimums.

Industry veteran Ken Rothacker is president of OmniConnect, Inc, a Chicago based telecommunications services agency. Contact Ken via email at  ken@omni-connect.com.

For more Understanding Your Telephone Bill, see Ken’s previous and subsequent articles.

[From Connection MagazineMarch 2003]