North American Network Operators Group

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40lb Marshmallow Bags

  • From: Scott Huddle
  • Date: Sun Feb 22 11:55:52 1998


An interesting article on how some others administer a numbering plan.

"...We are not out of phone numbers. 

It turns out there are plenty of unused phone numbers out
there, millions of them. After the phone company was
decentralized in 1984, competing carriers arose. Some were
very small. They needed phone numbers to distribute to their
new clients. The North American Numbering Plan gave out the
numbers, one exchange at a time. An exchange was a package
of 10,000 phone numbers, and you had to take them all, even if
you didn't have enough customers. 

This was necessary, according to [Ronald] Conners [administrator
of the NANP], because the phone company's switching equipment required 
the first six digits -- the area code and the exchange -- to identify 
the billing and routing of a call. It could not further subdivide the 
number without causing chaos. Unfortunately, this also resulted in many 
unused numbers. Millions of unused numbers. Conners talks of this as
though it were inevitable.

This is like Giant selling marshmallows only in 40-pound bags,
and then sadly lamenting that there are a lot of stale
marshmallows out there in people's homes.  ..."