New 861 area code coming to 309 region, assigned to new numbers 2022-2023

A new 861 area code is coming to the 309 region
A new 861 area code is coming to the 309 region(25 News/Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 3:38 PM CST
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(25 NEWS) - A new area code is coming to Central Illinois as an overlay code in the 309 region.

The Illinois Commerce Commission says the addition of the 861 area code will be available for assignment sometime late 2022 or early 2023 as the number of assignable telephone numbers with a 309 area code is dwindling.

The number of assignable numbers with a 309 area code is expected to deplete during the 4th quarter of 2023, according to an ICC release.

With the overlay, no existing numbers are changed. However, because the new area code functions within the same boundaries are the existing code, all calls must be completed by dialing the full, 10-digit (including area code) phone number. Currently, subscribers within the 309 area code can complete local calls by dialing only the 7-digit phone number.

In July of 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued an order designating “988″ as the new, 3-digit, nationwide Suicide Prevention hotline. This code is scheduled to go into effect in July of 2022.  In order for the 988 code to function properly, all area codes that already have “988″ as a working prefix must convert to 10-digit dialing. With this change, 7-digit local dialing will cease, and the benefit of a geographic split versus an overlay is eliminated.

As such, the only remaining means of supplying new phone numbers to a region anticipating exhaust, is to assign a new, overlay code, the ICC said.

The 861 area code will be assigned to new customers requesting local phone service, cellular and paging services, and alarms.

With the new 861 area code, current 309 area customers will keep their numbers. The new area code is being introduced so that the numbering administrator will have a continuing supply of prefixes and blocks to assign to new and growing telecommunications service providers. Consumers seeking additional telephone lines will, in many instances, continue to be able to receive 309 telephone numbers, even after the 861 area code is in service.

The FCC requires that all telephone calls made in the 309 / 861 overlay area be completed by dialing the 10-digit number (area code + seven digit number).  The change does not raise the cost of the call. A local call will remain a local call, and a toll call will remain a toll call, regardless of the number of digits that are dialed to complete it.

Carriers are currently in the process of implementing and enforcing mandatory 10 digit dialing in preparation for the “988″ National Suicide Prevention Hotline. This dialing pattern have been in effect for several months before the new 861 area code is introduced.

The 309 area code, which was originally created in 1957, serves large portions of northwestern and northcentral Illinois, including all or most of Peoria, McLean, Rock Island, Tazewell, Knox, Henry, Woodford, Fulton and McDonough Counties, and includes the cities of Bloomington/Normal, Peoria, Moline, Rock Island, Pekin and Galesburg, among many others.

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