area code
(NordWood Themes/Unsplash photo)

SPRINGFIELD (Heartland Newsfeed) — Prepare for a dialing headache beginning in spring 2021, as the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) recently announced the introduction of a new area code in central Illinois.

ICC announced the 447 area code which will “overlay” the existing area code of 217. The 217 area code covers 36 counties across Illinois, includes the cities of Decatur, Springfield, Champaign/Urbana, Danville, Rantoul, and Quincy and is one of the original 86 area codes in the nation assigned by Bell Laboratories in 1947.

Existing phone customers need not worry, as they will be able to continue using the 217 area code. New telephone customers for local landline service, cellular, paging services and alarms in the same region may receive telephone numbers in the 447 code.

The change means that you may need to dial some extra numbers, according to an ICC representative.

The Federal Communications Commission requires all calls made in the overlay area to be completed by dialing the full ten-digit number (area code + seven-digit number), which will also include calls dialed in the existing 217 area code. This requirement will not impact the cost of the call — a local call will still remain a local call and a toll-free call will still remain a toll-free call, regardless of the number of digits dialed to complete it.

217 area customers will have six months from August 29, 2020 and February 27, 2021 to adjust to dialing the additional digits to make their calls before the system becomes mandatory. During this period, consumers are encouraged to update contact list and auto-dialers to include the ten-digit number. After February 27, 2021, all calls must be dialed under the new format.

The change has been planned by ICC for years, the agency states, as a petition was filed in June 2001 on behalf of the state’s telecommunications industry in seeking a new area code for the region. The ICC approved the addition of the 447 area code in March 2007 to be deployed across the area currently serviced by the 217 area code, but implementation has been delayed by the commission for as long as possible.

While ICC stated that many individual 217 telephone numbers remain unassigned, they deem an area code “exhausted” when the last available prefix has been assigned. They aim to keep the ongoing supply of available 217 telephone numbers in most areas until the rollover in 2021.

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Jake Leonard is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed and GM/program director of the Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network and Podcast Network. Leonard is also general manager of Heartland Internet Media Networks, an active contributor to four newspapers for Pana News Group and a contributing writer to My Sports Vote.

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