The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin announced a new area code, 353, for south-central and southwestern Wisconsin on Thursday, citing an expected depletion of new 608 numbers.
Area codes are the first three numbers of a phone number and represent the geographical region a number was assigned in. Madison and the rest of southwestern Wisconsin are currently served by the 608 area code.
However, the PSC estimates 608 numbers will “exhaust” by early 2024, meaning all possible phone number combinations under the area code will be occupied. To resolve the issue, the North American Numbering Plan Administrator petitioned the PSC to adopt a new 353 area code for the region.
The PSC adopted the petition Thursday, meaning the new 353 area codes will enter service in late 2023. This change has no effect on current 608 number holders in Wisconsin and only applies to phone numbers issued after the 353 code is implemented.
“The price of a call will not change due to the overlay,” Meghan Sovey, communications director at the PSC, wrote in a press release. She added that customers will still be able to dial standard three-digit emergency services, including the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
An area code overlay is distinct from the previously common split. After an area code split, numbers are reassigned according to geographic area. This occurred in 1999 to the 414 area code region in Milwaukee, which split and spawned the 262 area code in the city’s suburbs.
Splits are now an infrequently utilized method of area code relief due to the confusion generated by businesses and number holders being assigned new numbers, according to the PSC. Instead, overlays are becoming increasingly common as cell phone numbers detach users from the geographic borders landlines were based upon.
The last Wisconsin area code overlay happened in 2010 when the 534 code overlayed the 715 code in northern Wisconsin.