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Initially, consumers had no choice regarding the accessibility to 900/976 numbers on their phones.

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While the billing is different, calls are usually routed the same way they are for a toll-free telephone number, being anywhere despite the area code used.

These telephone numbers are usually allocated from a national telephone numbering plan in such a way that they are easily distinguished from other numbers.

Premium-rate telephone numbers are telephone numbers for telephone calls during which certain services are provided, and for which prices higher than normal are charged.

Unlike a normal call, part of the call charge is paid to the service provider, thus enabling businesses to be funded via the calls.

Numbers with the 900 area code were those which were expected to have a huge number of potential callers, and the 900 area code was screened at the local level to allow only a certain number of the callers in each area to access the nationwide long distance network for reaching the destination number.

Also, the early incarnation of 900 was not billed at premium-rate charges, but rather at regular long distance charges based on the time of day and day of week that the call was placed.

Area Code 900 went into service January 1, 1971, but the first known to have been used in the United States for the "Ask President Carter" program in March 1977, for incoming calls to a nationwide talk radio broadcast featuring the newly elected President Jimmy Carter, hosted by anchorman Walter Cronkite.

At that time, the intent for area code 900 was as a choke exchange—a code that blocked large numbers of simultaneous callers from jamming up the long distance network.

Another now-uncommon premium-rate scam involves television programming that induces young children to dial the number, banking on the notion that they will be unaware of the charges that will be incurred.

One variant, targeted at children too young to dial a number, enticed children to hold the phone up to the television set while the DTMF tones of the number were played.

This practice continues, along with the use of these numbers for things such as software technical support, banking access, and stock tips.

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