The '540' will soon have a new area code alongside it

State officials said by the year 2020 the 540 area code will be exhausted.
State officials said by the year 2020 the 540 area code will be exhausted.(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 4:51 PM EDT
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Those living in "the 540" will soon be living in two area codes simultaneously: 540 and 826.

, Virginia's State Corporation Commission (SCC) announced that they were asking for public comments on proposed solutions to a rapidly approaching problem: the '540' area code region was projected to run out of possible phone numbers in 2022.

The SCC suggested three possible solutions: splitting the 540 area code zone into two separate areas, overlaying the 540 area code with another nearby area code (either 434 or 276), or creating a new area code and superimposing it over the existing 540 area code zone, meaning that the entire 540 area will be covered by both 540 and a new area code.

And the final option is what the SCC ultimately went with.

On Wednesday, the SCC formally announced that the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA) assigned a new area code – 826 – to the western and northern portions of Virginia currently covered by the 540 area code.

Thew new 826 area code will be superimposed over the existing 540 area code, which encompasses a wide swath of the state, including Roanoke in the southwest, Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley to the west, Winchester and parts of northern Virginia, and Fredericksburg to the east.

The 540 area code has been around since 1996, when it was created by splitting the 703 area code, which was nearing exhaustion at that point.

Earlier this year, the

was the one they were leaning toward based on public comment.

A similar process is being done in the Hampton Roads areas with the area code change from 757 to 948 for new subscribers.

Effectively, the 826 area code will be applied to the same geographic footprint covered by the existing 540 area code.

It does mean that 10-digit dialing will be required for local calls, since new phone numbers will have a different area code than existing numbers in the area, but the SCC decided it will be "more durable and/or less disruptive than other alternatives.”

Under this plan, no one will lose their current 540 phone number.

After a series of public hearings held in the 540 region in early March, the SCC agreed with the findings of a hearing examiner.

According to the SCC, the telecommunications industry also prefers the overlay solution because it's the least disruptive to customers.

The order from the SCC issued this week directs phone companies throughout the 540 area code region to move forward with the new area code overlay over a proposed 13-month implementation schedule.

That calls for six months in which calls within the 540 area code will be able to be completed using either 7 or 10-digit dialing, meant to ease the transition from 7-digit to 10-digit dialing as people get used to the change with the new 826 area code.