"A Philadelphia company called PrimeTel Communications has, over the past 13 years, acquired nearly a quarter of all 1-800 numbers in the U.S. and Canada, according to a report by the Associated Press. PrimeTel now controls 1.7 million 1-800 numbers, more than any other company, and, the AP says, many of those numbers redirect to a phone-sex service run by a company with close ties to PrimeTel."TPMMuckraker - Phone Sex Company Controls Nearly 25% Of 1-800 Numbers
"Records obtained by The Associated Press show that over the past 13 years, a little-known Philadelphia company called PrimeTel Communications has quietly gained control over nearly a quarter of all the 1-800 numbers in the U.S. and Canada, often by grabbing them the moment they are relinquished by previous users. As of March, it administered more 800 numbers than any other company, including Verizon and AT&T.AP IMPACT: Porn Company Is Amassing 1-800 Numbers
And many, if not most, of those 1.7 million numbers appear to be used for one thing: redirecting callers to a phone-sex service.
Dial 1-800-Chicago and instead of reaching a tourism hotline for the Windy City, you will hear a woman offering "one-on-one talk with a nasty girl" for $2.99 per minute. A similar thing happens if you punch in the initial digits of 1-800-Metallica, 1-800-Cadillac, 1-800-Minolta, 1-800-Cameras, 1-800-Worship or 1-800-Whirlpool."
"PrimeTel appears to have benefited by grabbing numbers associated with famous names, like 1-800-Beatles, or numbers that have recently been canceled but are still advertised widely.
From the late 1980s until around 2005, teenagers who dialed the national hotline used by Teens Teaching AIDS Prevention would reach a call center in Kansas City, Mo., where other youths were waiting to answer questions about the disease. When that program ended, the number was soon routed to one of National A-1's sex lines. But the AIDS hotline number is still publicized by public health groups.
When New York City's Fire Department relinquished its toll-free fire safety hotline a few years ago because of an administrative slip-up, PrimeTel grabbed it the moment it became available. Soon enough, 1-800-FIRETIP was ringing into one of National A-1's phone-sex lines.
The same thing happened to the Cook County Jail in Chicago when it canceled its toll-free inmate information line, and to rape counseling hotlines in Maine and New Mexico.
The Republican National Committee once printed a fundraising mailer with a toll-free calling code and was publicly embarrassed when the calls began ringing in to one of National A-1's chat lines."
"Over the years, though, PrimeTel has been hit with lawsuits and complaints alleging that it is violating federal rules banning toll-free service providers from hoarding digits. Federal Communications Commission rules say that "routing multiple toll-free numbers to a single toll-free subscriber" is usually considered hoarding.
The FCC has never taken formal action against PrimeTel or National A-1, although federal authorities have expressed renewed interest lately in companies that handle toll-free numbers. In the fall, authorities sent subpoenas to several, including PrimeTel, asking for information on how they acquire numbers and why."
In an active regulation scenario (which I lean toward) this kind of behaviour would have been caught some time ago.
This is one more example of the ridiculous outcomes of the notion "business should regulate itself".
The FCC does as little to regulate in the U.S. as the CRTC does here in Canada. Most often when they do regulate it is on behalf of the interests of the companies they are regulating, not in the interests of the general public who really own the airwaves and communications policy.