As Madison region grows, a new area code is coming to south central Wisconsin

Soon, 608 won't be the only area code in south central and southwest Wisconsin

A man uses a smartphone.
In this Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, photo, a man uses a smartphone in New Orleans. Jenny Kane/AP Photo

A new area code is coming to south central and southwest Wisconsin.

The change will eventually affect people getting new telephone numbers in the region currently served by area code 608 — a vast swath that includes Madison, La Crosse, Janesville, Beloit and the Wisconsin Dells.

Those customers will eventually get numbers staring with area code 353, a shift that could happen in the first quarter of 2024, according to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. That’s when the 608 area code is expected to run out of unique combinations of assignable prefixes, a term for the three-digit sequence that follows an area code.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Phone numbers will not change for people who already have the 608 code.

Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission approved the change at the behest of the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, a third party that’s tasked with creating a phone numbering system and assigning new codes when necessary.

New area code coincides with regional population boom

The phone number shakeup coincides with a regional population boom, said David Egan-Robertson, a demographer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Applied Population Lab.

Area codes in Wisconsin are divided into five geographic regions, although regions can be served by more than one area code. About 1.3 million people lived in the 608 region as of the 2020 Census, representing nearly a quarter of the state’s total population, Egan-Robertson said.

The 608 region also saw the greatest percentage increase in population over the last two decades, Egan-Robertson said. Much of that growth has been concentrated around Madison and its suburbs. Dane County, home to Madison, grew by 31 percent, or more than 133,700 people, between 2000 and 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

A map of Wisconsin area codes
Map courtesy of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

Demographers don’t typically focus on telephone area codes as units of study — they tend to be more interested in subdivisions used by the U.S. Census Bureau like political districts, Egan-Robertson said. Still, he noted, when an area grows, more residents and more businesses will probably need more phone numbers.

“When there’s a lot of population growth, there’s also a whole layer of commercial growth that may be going on,” he said.

In other words, when a region booms, the birth of a new area code could be one side effect.