Initially, consumers had no choice regarding the accessibility to 900/976 numbers on their phones.
However, in 1987, after a child had accumulated a bill of ,000, From the early 1980s through the early 1990s, it was common to see commercials promoting 1-900 numbers to children featuring such things as characters famous from Saturday morning cartoons to Santa Claus.
Telephone companies typically offer blocking services to allow telephone customers to prevent access to these number ranges from their telephones.
In some jurisdictions, telephone companies are required by law to offer such blocking.
A call to either one of these numbers can result in a high per-minute or per-call charge.
For example, a "psychic hotline" type of 1-900 number may charge .99 for the first minute and 99 cents for each additional minute.
Adult chat lines (phone sex) and tech support are a very common use of premium-rate numbers.
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.