The Illinois Quad Cities is getting a new area code next month, 861.

(Getty Images)

To ensure a continuing supply of new telephone numbers, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has approved an area code overlay for the 309 area code region, which serves west-central Illinois, including East Moline, Moline and Rock Island.

The new 861 area code will serve the same geographic area currently served by the existing 309 area code, and people with 309 numbers will not have to change, according to an ICC release Wednesday.

(Image courtesy of MTCO Communications)

The new 861 area code will overlay the region with the 309 code, not replace any current numbers.

The overlay of a new 861 area code – to start Feb. 24, 2023 — does not require you to change your existing area code or phone number. “You will continue to dial the area code and phone number for all local calls, as you do today, within and between the 309 and new 861 area codes,” the release said.

Beginning Feb. 24, customers in the 309 area code overlay region may be assigned a number in the new 861 area code when they request new service or an additional line. Customers receiving the 861 area code will be required to dial the area code and phone number for all local calls, just as customers with telephone numbers from the 309 area code do today, the ICC said.

What will you need to do?

Customers in the overlay region should:

  • Continue to dial 10 digits for all local calls, including calls within the same area code.
  • Continue to identify your telephone number as a 10-digit number, and include the area code when giving the number to friends, family, business associates, customers, etc.
  • Ensure that all services, automatic dialing equipment, or other types of equipment recognize the new 861 area code as a valid area code and continue to store or program telephone numbers as 10-digit numbers. Some examples are: stored telephone numbers in contact lists in wireless phones, PBXs, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, speed dialers, call forwarding settings, voicemail services, medical alert devices, safety alarm security systems and gates, ankle monitors and or other similar equipment.
  • Check items such as your website, personal and business stationery and printed checks, advertising materials, contact information, and your personal or pet ID tags to ensure the area code is included.

What will remain the same?

  • Your phone number, including current area code, will not change.
  • The price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change due to the overlay.
  • What is a local call now will remain a local call.You will continue to dial 10 digits for local calls within and between the overlay area codes, and 1+10 digits for long distance calls.
  • You can still dial just three digits to reach 911 and 988, as well as 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 or 811 if those are currently available in your community.

309 since 1957

The new 861 area code has been in the works for a while, at least since 2021. The 309 area code was originally created in 1957, serving large portions of northwestern and northcentral Illinois, including all or most of Peoria, McLean, Rock Island, Tazewell, Knox, Henry, Woodford, Fulton and McDonough counties.

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

With an overlay area code, no existing numbers are changed, according to an ICC press release in late 2021.

“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,” the ICC said.

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 issued an order designating “988” as the new, 3-digit, nationwide Suicide Prevention hotline, which went into effect in 2022.

The new 988 suicide prevention lifeline became effective in September 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, the ICC said. 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.

For more information, visit the ICC area codes website HERE.