Are phone numbers almost free now?

I recall there was a time were it looked like we were going to run out of phone numbers, what with everybody having both a home number and a mobile number. But with people ditching their home lines and phone booths becoming almost extinct, I guess that got alleviated.

But now I’ve noticed there are services that give you a public phone number for absolutely nothing. One example is Google Voice, and another is GrooveIP, a VOIP client on Android that also gives you a public phone number for nothing. And there’s more I’m sure.

For companies to do this, they must be dirt cheap. Are they? What do companies like Google and GrooveIP pay when they purchase blocks of numbers for their customers to choose from on signup?

I think GrooveIP charges you for phone calls after a limited number of free minutes a month? At least that’s what the reviews seem to say.

Google Voice, well, it didn’t use to be free until Google bought that company with their infinite supply of cash. Now I don’t think they really know what they want to do with it. Maybe they’ll eventually add ads. Maybe they like that it brings you into the wider Google ecosystem (Hangouts compatibility, etc.). Maybe they just haven’t really looked at it in a while and are letting it sit around for a while, because they’re rich anyway. It hasn’t seen any real development in forever, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they sent it to the Great Google Graveyard soon.

when I got my first cell phone I got a recycled photo # and started getting weird texts right away ! I was getting the last person you used my number texts they stopped when I text the person they had the wrong number . We’re running out of numbers this is why we get recycled phone numbers now. My city is small but we needed a new area code # to keep up with demand of cell phones and more people moving here.

Search for “wholesale DID pricing”, and you’ll see publicly advertised prices down to low tens of cents per month. (DID = “direct inward dialing”, the thing where a VoIP provider sells you a phone number.) Whatever Google is paying, it’s presumably less than that, but probably not by multiple orders of magnitude.

The original crisis was the fact the NPAs (National Prefix Areas) were originally defined as having either a ‘0’ or a ‘1’ in the second position (212 was Manhattan, 415 was San Francisco - remember, these were rotary-dialed, meaning the lower numbers were quicker to dial).
Many PBX machines were hard-wired to recognize that ‘0’ or ‘1’ as meaning “local” or "long Distance.
All of those machines would die if a NPA (called “Area Code” for public use) had another digit in that position.

Added to the PBX problem: ATT decided, since nobody else needed all the other NPA’s, it would use them internally.
This was the huge problem - getting ATT’s systems to NOT consider “271” as being (some obscure billing code).

First, there was the “Princess Phone” that you had to buy for your own “Princess”, with her own phone number.

Then the FAX.

Those “natural NPAs” were overloaded.

I assume that problem has been overcome? (You never explicitly said so but I inferred as much.)

Does your “Area Code” have a “0” or “1” in the second digit?

Yes, they scrambled and freed up bunches of NPA’s for use as Area Codes.

I don’t know how many PBX machines that were made obsolete. I suspect the switch to first tone and then digital switching made them useless even if the ‘0’/‘1’ problem hadn’t.

If you can find a Phone Book (remember those?) from circa 1980, you’ll find a map of the entire US, showing the Area Code for each area. Entire States had single NPA’s.

One of the reason we were running short of phone numbers for awhile was that numbers were assigned out to providers (cell providers, pager service providers) in blocks of 10,000, so there were huge blocks of unused numbers that couldn’t be assigned out. They sorted that out eventually too.

They are still adding area codes. My hometown of San Antonio is slated to get an overlay area code in the near future, thus ending 7 digit local dialing here. I wonder if San Antonio might be the biggest city currently without an overlay area code?

Well… San Antonio seems to have split off area codes rather than overlaid in the past, so it’s not like SA has had the same area code since the begining.

Originally it was in 512 along with Austin, but then they split 210 off, and left 512 in Austin. Then they split 830 and 956 off from 210, leaving 210 as the primary SA area code. Now they’re going to overlay.