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How can I get "ownership" of a very specific phone number?
February 13, 2009 12:01 PM   Subscribe

I want to "own" a very specific phone number (non-800). How can I get it?

The specific number I want is currently "not in service," which I presume bodes well for its availability. The area code and exchange are 937-866. This appears to belong to "Ameritech Ohio (AT&T)" based on some database lookups, and a wikipedia article seems to confirm that Ameritech went through a series of acquisitions and mergers to become part of the company currently known as AT&T.

Assuming this is correct, I suppose the question then becomes:how can I talk AT&T to giving out a very specific Ohio phone number to someone who doesn't live in Ohio? Or are there any 3rd parties who might resell service for them who offer this kind of selection?

Any hints appreciated!
posted by weston to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd start by 'establishing' an Ohio address.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 12:18 PM on February 13, 2009


I think it's pretty certain that you won't be able to get it. If you lived in the area served by that NPA-NXX and established local exchange service with AT&T there, then you could request that number. But it you're not a resident and not a subscriber, they won't give it to you. If you were to establish service there and AT&T assigned that number to you, then you could use number portability to take the number with you to another service provider of your choice.

However, if where you're actually located is not within the same LATA (Local Access Transport Area) then that number cannot be ported to another local service provider serving your area. Currently in the US, local number portability is restricted to being within the same LATA for technical and billing reasons.

(And, some history...Ohio Bell, a subsidiary of AT&T, became part of Ameritech in 1983 when AT&T/the Bell System was broken up. Ameritech "merged" with SBC in 1999, and SBC acquired AT&T in 2005 and became the "new AT&T". Plus ├ža change...)
posted by johnvaljohn at 12:36 PM on February 13, 2009


I would second the establishment of an Ohio address as step one. You might be able to find some sympathetic mefite from Cincinnati or Columbus or some place to help you with this, and then work out the transfer.

Note that the fact that it is currently not in service will likely not prevent the telephone carrier from charging you a hefty service fee to verify availability. Although my experience with this comes from Bell Canada and not AT&T, I have seen this more than once. To parahrase Bill Bryson: most companies don't like you very much, except for Microsoft and telecommunications companies, which don't like you at all.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:05 PM on February 13, 2009


I think it can be done; here is a dated Straight Dope on that topic; here is a more recent Yahoo answer. It sounds like calling the phone company that owns it is where to start. It also sounds like you might have to pay long distance charges to have the calls transferred to your phone, but that is based on the old Straight Dope. Also, there was an article about Steve Wozniak linked on the blue recently (this comment) that states he collects phone numbers and when the first 888 exchange was set up, he asked for and got a phone number that was all 8s. I thought the entire article (here) was worth reading just for the anecdote at the end regarding that number.
posted by TedW at 1:37 PM on February 13, 2009


You will need to tell the company where you want the service installed, so an Ohio address would be a plus.

An account executive or phone salesperson should be able to handle vanity number requests, which are valid for both toll free and regular numbers.

Go to att.com and follow the links as if you live in OH and want to establish an account. At some point, they should give you a toll free number to call, but they might try to convince you to sign up online, first. Be upfront that you want a certain number, and the person on the phone should be able to tell you yes or no. They won't "flag" the number or try to steal it from you, so don't think this is your only shot. If that doesn't work, you could try a "custom phone number" place, which is exactly the term you want to search, but try the direct approach first.

If this is a "naughty" number, there may be a reason it is out of service.
posted by soelo at 2:21 PM on February 13, 2009


I live in Louisville, KY and approximately 4 years ago was going to school in Williamsburg, VA. For reasons more complicated than I need to go into here, I wanted a cell phone # with a Washington, DC area code (specifically, 703). I got it from AT&T with absolutely no problem. I did not then, nor have I ever, had a DC address. My permanent address has always been in KY.

Just wanted to add my $.02, since everyone else seems to think you must have to live in an area to get a phone number with the corresponding area code.
posted by pecanpies at 2:34 PM on February 13, 2009


since everyone else seems to think you must have to live in an area to get a phone number with the corresponding area code.

No, not necessarily -- I know Canadians who live in The Hague and keep a local number from their old hometown for family and friends to call them. I have no idea what the expense is, though.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:18 PM on February 13, 2009


since everyone else seems to think you must have to live in an area to get a phone number with the corresponding area code.

Well, mostly you do in the wired world. Wireless is different, of course, but since this number "belongs" to AT&T (Ohio), you're dealing with the wireline part of AT&T.

On further thought, there may be several approaches to obtaining the number you want:

1) Obtain actual wireline service with AT&T in the actual geographic area to which the NPA-NXX is assigned which is the Miamisburg, West Carrollton area southwest of Dayton. This means you need a residence within the service area which AT&T serves with a wired connection. Since this is within the Dayton metro area, the service area for this NPA-NXX is likely limited to just a few suburbs. You could then try to port the number to a wireless service provider, or to a Voice Over IP service provider (e.g. Comcast).

2) Contact AT&T and ask for Remote Call Forwarding service using the number you want. RCF is a "lineless" service - any calls to the RCF number are automatically forwarded to some other number (and you pay for the forwarded leg for each call). You can't originate calls from that number.

3) Contact AT&T and ask for Foreign Exchange service using the number you want. This is similar to RCF but isn't really true forwarding, though incoming calls will be redirected to some other number associated with the FX service. This is what many service businesses use in order to have a "local" number in many different exchanges in a metro area. Once again, as the subscriber, you pay for the redirected call. And again, you can't originate calls from this number.

Can I ask exactly why you want to "own" this number? Do you only want to receive calls to that number? Or do you want to place calls from that number?

(As bona fides, I've worked for over 25 years for a major telecommunications switching manufacturer.)
posted by johnvaljohn at 5:54 PM on February 13, 2009


I think it could help to explain why you want 937-866-2266 or whatever ;-) you might tickle the fancy of whoever is helping you; you have good reason. I've gotten phone numbers I've wanted for similar reasons just by being nice and exploring suggestions like those offered by johnvaljohn.
posted by carmicha at 7:21 PM on February 13, 2009


I think it could help to explain why you want 937-866-2266 or whatever

Smartypants. :)

Obtain actual wireline service with AT&T in ... the Miamisburg, West Carrollton area southwest of Dayton ... You could then try to port the number to a wireless service provider, or to a Voice Over IP service provider (e.g. Comcast).

Assuming I could get enlist the help of someone with a residence in that area, would there be any minimum length of time I'd need to maintain it as wireline service before trying to have it ported?

And when you say residence, would office space work, or is commercial space generally set up for a different kind of service?

Can I ask exactly why you want to "own" this number?

As carmicha figured out, my first+last name has exactly 10 letters. :)

I'd mostly like to receive calls at the number. Being able to make them would be extra nice, but RCF or Foreign Exchange sound like perfectly serviceable options in the likely event that I can't figure out a way to get the cooperation of someone with a Dayton residence.
posted by weston at 11:11 PM on February 13, 2009


And when you say residence, would office space work, or is commercial space generally set up for a different kind of service?

Commercial service would work just fine - in fact both FX and RCF are business-type services that likely aren't offered under AT&T's residential tariff. So just call AT&T and describe what you want to do - receive calls at a certain number, get them redirected to some other number - and they'll tell you what's available. Keep in mind that they may market these services under a different name, and the sadly underpaid and undertrained call center person may not recognize the FX or RCF names.

Good luck!
posted by johnvaljohn at 7:23 AM on February 14, 2009


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