Let’s Know about WATS First
WATS, standing for Wide Area Telephone Service, was a long-distance flat-rate service providing customer dial-type telecommunications throughout some countries which adhere to the North American Numbering Plan. It was a service between one given “station” or customer phone and phones/stations in a specified geographic rate region. The service employed one single telephone line between a customer location and its serving central office. It was possible to arrange each access line for inward (IN-WATS), or outward (OUT-WATS) service, or even both.
How was it Introduced?
It was in 1961 when the Bell System came up with WATS. It was introduced as a primitive flat-rate long-distance plan through which a business could get a special line and a ‘full time’ or ‘measured time’. This time was the number of hours included within that line. Most often, the lines were connected to the private branch exchanges of big businesses. The very first toll-free direct-dial +1-800 numbers were based on the WATS lines. These were started intrastate in 1966 and interstate in 1967. By 1976, AT&T Corporation received an annual revenue of billion dollars from WATS.
Now Let’s Talk about 800
800 is actually the original designation for Wide Area Telecommunication Service or WATS numbers. There were Outward WATS and Inward WATS lines with 6 varying levels of calling regions. Level six was the whole United States with its fifty states, and level 5 was the 48 contiguous states, going right down till level 1, just one state. Generally, a company would acquire a level 6 and then a level 1 as although level 6 lets customers make calls from anywhere within the United States. It debars the state in which the call gets terminated. So, the company generally purchases a level 1 for its state. Even though Interstate IN-WATS are less common, they still are in existence. These are those which you can call from only one state. Instead of individual billing, these calls get billed by the hour.
Area codes 866, 877, and 888 were added later. Even though 800, the area code, is not assigned to a particular time zone or geographical area, customers can restrict calls from any toll-free number. Other such toll-free numbers which later came into existence are 833, 844, as well as 855.
WATS’ Role in the Civil Rights Movement
When the Civil Rights Movement was in its full swing in the United States, activist organizations like SNCC made use of WATS for letting the eyewitnesses on the ground convey information quickly and conveniently. Notes from such telephonic conversations were put together in ‘WATS Line Reports” and then mailed to the Justice Department, the media, civil rights leaders, and all others involved in it. WATS was also used by organizations for communicating with local leaders all across the nation. In one of the Bay Area Friends of SNCC newsletters in 1965, WATS was described as the ‘heart’ of all SNCC communications and security. At a flat monthly rate, people could make an unlimited number of calls to any region across the country, for their state, depending on the line they used.
The Atlanta office had the national WATS line, while the Jackson office had the state-wide line. Both of them ran on a 24-hour basis. Any project worker could call in to report any major activity, threat, or incident to the Jackson office. They had their WATS operator take down the details and relay them to the Atlanta Office when the activity/event is of national importance. When an incident or threat involved Federal laws, the Jackson office would notify the Justice Department and the FBI. Atlanta used the national WATS line for notifying SNCC groups across the country. (See Why the United States is called America?)
The Emergence of Similar Services
Multiple competitors providing similar services were brought up by the 1984 AT&T divestiture for outbound calls. These services used standard business phone lines, and the special WATS line got ultimately supplanted by numerous other flat-rate offers. The need for an inbound toll-free number terminating at fixed-rate service or any special WATS line also became obsolete towards the 1980s. This was because of the technological improvement and intelligent network capability within the +1‑800 service. Now, any toll-free number could be terminated at any T-carried line, at a destination or standard local phone number based on cost, call origin, time of day, and other factors.
What City in the United States uses the AreaAcode 800?
Where is the 800 area code? 800 is the toll-free area code, and The United States uses more than 310 area codes assigned to specific geographic areas.