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A long-planned area code change for Chicago has left BT customers in the UK unable to call the southern part of the Windy City.

The new code came into force on February 17, although BT said its customers have had a week of disruption since March 17. A Register reader wrote to say his attempts report his frustration had been ignored by BT customer service.

The code is an overlay of the 815 area code which served the southern part of Chicago. Numbers in the region are now prefixed with 779, as well as 815. Overlays enable operators to assign more telephone lines when the existing numbering system reaches capacity.

BT told The Register the problem would be resolved "in due course" by its engineers. A spokesman promised the fix would be made within days when the firm's database is updated. BT is not responsible for calls made from mobile operators or other fixed line operators - any problems there would lie within the databases of those companies, he said.

The overlay was announced by the Illinois Commerce Commission way back in 2004, and similar schemes are already in place in at least 16 states. The Chicago code has been introduced gradually, first functioning in February 2006, with its use becoming compulsory last month.

BT's spokesman blamed its communication breakdown on for an unusual deferral of the overlay by Chicago's operator AT&T. A spokeswoman for the Illinois Commerce Commission said the overlay had gone ahead on the date planned. ®

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