SPRINGFIELD — A significant portion of west-central Illinois is about to get a new area code.
The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) announced Monday that the 309 area code territory, which includes Woodford County, Bloomington-Normal, Peoria and the Quad Cities will be overlaid with the 861 area code in late 2022 or early 2023.
Overlays are common in highly populated areas to supplement the supply of available phone numbers. The 309 area code is one of a handful in Illinois that had not yet been overlaid.
However, the ICC projects that assignable prefixes in the 309 region will "exhaust" by late 2023, which will necessitate the overlay.
The change will have little impact for current customers, who will retain a 309 number. However, the 861 area code will soon be assigned to all new customers that request local phone service.
Perhaps the largest change coming is the elimination of seven-digit local dialing, which will mean customers will have to dial their area code before every call.
The change, which will take effect in July 2022, would have happened even if there was not an overlay because the Federal Communications Commission has designated 988 as a three-digit, nationwide Suicide Prevention hotline. Since that number is a working prefix in the 309 region, an area code would be needed in front of each number regardless.
The timeline for implementing the new overlay is still being determined, though the ICC indicated it would take at least nine months.
Overlays are becoming more common as present area code regions run out of assignable numbers. Last year, the 217 area code region in Central Illinois, which includes Champaign, Decatur and Springfield, was overlaid with the 447 area code.