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888 PREFIX TO TAKE A TOLL-FREE ROLE

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Another number to remember: 1-888. Starting March 1, toll-free telephone calls will carry a code of 888 or 800.

The Federal Communications Commission adopted a plan Thursday for introducing the second toll-free code.The agency's top telephone regulator, Gina Keeney, cautioned that the 800 and 888 codes will not be interchangeable.

"Let's say you dial 1-800-555-5555," she said. "If you dial 1-888-555-5555 that's going to be a different place. The new 888 number is comparable to an area code."

The FCC is adding the 888 code because the pool of available 800 numbers is expected to run out by spring. The agency said just 600,000 such numbers remain available.

By using the 888 prefix, telephone companies will have about 7.5 million new numbers to sell.

Beginning Feb. 10, AT&T, MCI, Sprint and other companies that provide toll-free service can begin taking reservations from companies for specific 888 numbers.

About 310,000 "vanity" numbers using the 888 prefix also have been requested, the FCC said. Those requests will be set aside until the FCC decides how it wants to distribute vanity numbers.