Beginning on Saturday, you are going to have to dial a few more extra numbers when making a phone call. Mandatory 10-digit dialing will begin due to the new 447 area code overlay across Central Illinois.
Illinois Commerce Commission Engineer Analyst George Light says that Central Illinois has simply run out of prefixes: “We haven’t run out of individual phone numbers, but an area code is determined to be ‘in exhaust’ when there are no more prefixes available to assign to a phone carrier or to a particular service area of the 217 area code. There are almost 100 prefix combinations, and after the area code was introduced in the late 1940s, after 70-some years we are out of prefixes.”
Light says the area hasn’t run out of phone numbers, but the need for a new overlay is due to the influx of new cellphone carriers: “We have a lot of voice-over-Internet-protocol – VOIP carriers. There are 50 different phone companies that operate within the 217 area code, and a good 15-16 of those are VOIP, which are relatively new to the telecommunications marketplace. They are coming in, and they all need numbers, of course, to offer their services.”
Beginning on March 27th, new telephone lines or services will be assigned numbers using the new 447 area code. Light says the most important things to remember is that your phone number, including your area code, will stay the same; you’ll need to dial the area code for all local calls; you’ll need to continue to dial 1 plus the area code for all long-distance calls; what is a local call now will remain a local call and no service rates will change; and you can still dial 9-1-1 or any of the other 3-digit service numbers as normal.
Light says that customers need to ensure all services need to recognize the new area code and to set up their systems, especially medical alert devices, to 10-digit dialing: “If people have automatic dialers or if they have one-touch dialing that’s been pre-programmed with 7 digits, they need to go in to their system and make sure they change that to reflect the full phone number. Otherwise, when they go to use it, it won’t work after February 27th.”
For additional information, visit the ICC website at icc.illinois.gov or contact your local phone service provider.