National Edition

Americans dropping landline phones

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11 2013 12:35 p.m. MDT

According to the U.S. Census, about one in three American households no longer have a landline phone.

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More and more, people are cutting off their landlines and relying exclusively on cell phones. A report from the Census Bureau finds that in 2011, 28 percent of households did not have any landlines and relied only on cell phones. That is about one in three. Back in 1998, only one home in 100 relied on cell phones in place of landlines.

The Wall Street Journal analyzed the data this way: "Just under 71 percent of households had landlines in 2011, down from a little more than 96 percent 15 years ago. Cellphone ownership reached 89 percent, up from about 36 percent in 1998, the first year the survey asked about the devices."

Gawker, however, spun the information a little differently with this headline: "Most households bizarrely still have a landline."

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker then speculates on the history and reasons to have a landline: "In the olden days, in order to make a phone call to someone farther than shouting distance, you had to stand in one place and speak into a receiver wired to a wall, and if someone called you, you had to dash from wherever you were to wherever the phone was anchored. … New Census data shows that the vast majority of Americans are — I'm hypothesizing here — some sort of weird steampunk retro fetishists who probably also build fires using only pieces of flint out of respect for the ancient roots of human evolution."

An article in the Arizona Republic, however, says it still might be a good idea to keep that landline — even if Gawker readers may gawk at them. Raghu Santanam, a professor at Arizona State University, told the Arizona Republic that not having a landline phone can be risky. Landline phones work when the power goes out and will work when cellphone tower emergency batteries run out. Cordless phones, however, need power to work — so an old-fashioned corded phone works best for emergencies.

The Arizona Republic story also quoted an older couple who like landlines because they can both get on the phone at the same time to talk with grandkids.

Meanwhile, according to Fast Company: "Verizon, it seems, wants out of the money-draining business of offering landline telephone service. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the telecom giant has been petitioning the FCC to let it leave destroyed landline infrastructure as is. Instead of fixing the lines, Verizon wants to offer a service called Verizon Voice Link, which consists of a non-Internet enabled mobile phone tethered to a charger stand. This plan is encountering resistance from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)."

EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @degroote

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