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The Illinois Commerce Commission says a new area code is coming to Central Illinois. 

The agency said the new 447 area code will “overlay” the existing 217 area code. It will not be introduced until March 2021. 

The 217 area code covers 36 counties in Illinois and includes Decatur, Springfield, Champaign, Urbana, Danville, Quincy, and Rantoul. It's one of the original 86 area codes in the United States and was assigned by Bell Laboratories in 1947. 

Current phone customers will keep the original area code. New telephone customers for local phone service, cellular, paging services, and alarms, assigned in the same area may receive telephone numbers in the new overlay area code. 

The change means that people making phone calls in the area will have to dial some extra numbers, according to the agency. 

The Federal Communications Commission requires all calls made in the overlay area to be completed by dialing the full, 10-digit number (area code + seven-digit number). This includes calls currently dialed with seven digits in the existing area code.

This requirement does not affect 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.

Customers in the 217 area code will have six months, between August 29, 2020, and February 27, 2021, to adjust to dialing the additional digits to complete their calls before it becomes mandatory. During this period, consumers are encouraged to update their contact lists and auto dialers to include the 10-digit number. After Feb. 27, 2021, all calls must be dialed with the area code + telephone number.

The change has been coming for years. The agency said a petition was filed in June 2001 on behalf of the Illinois Telecommunications Industry seeking a new area code for 217. On March 6, 2007, the ICC approved the addition of area code 447, to be deployed in the geographic area now served by area code 217. The commission said it sought to delay implementation for as long as possible. 

While many individual 217 telephone numbers remain unassigned, an area code is deemed to be “exhausted” when the last available prefix has been assigned, the agency said. While 447 telephone numbers will begin to appear in 2021, there will continue to be an ongoing supply of available 217 telephone numbers in most areas.

Contact Allison Petty at (217) 421-6986. Follow her on Twitter: @allison0512

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