We're Not Ready to Cut the Cord

Most of us in Connecticut have Facebook accounts and probably check them more often than our e-mail.  We have Blackberrys, iPhones, iPods and other stuff with made-up techie names.

But when it comes Alexander Graham Bell’s good old telephone, we’re not ready to hang up the landlines and go completely mobile.

In Connecticut, only 6 percent of us are cell-only. That’s in contrast to Oklahoma and Utah, where least 26 percent of households have cut the cords.

The data comes from (believe it or not) the Centers of Disease Control, which blends its 2007 survey data with Census updates. The number crunchers found how rates of cell-only households varies widely by state and sometimes vary within regions.

It is not just Connecticut that has few residents who depend only on cell phones. It’s indicative of all the Northeast, according to federal estimates released Wednesday.

Charles Golvin, principal analyst with Forrester Research, said his research also shows the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states less likely to cut the cord.

His research from 2008 shows that 81 percent of people in New England have mobile phones and 8 percent of us are cord-cutters.

Forrester is using more recent data than the CDC, so this makes sense.

Stephen Blumberg, senior scientist at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, noted the data are from 2007 and all signs indicate people keep substituting cell phones for landlines at a steady pace.

"We would expect that today in 2009 the prevalence rates in every state have increased, perhaps by 5 percentage points or more. What we don't know is whether the rate of growth is the same in every state," Blumberg said in an interview.

Golvin breaks “cord cutters” into two groups: the people who call up the phone companies and tell them “you can stuff (the land line service) in your shoe,” and those who never got landlines in the first place.
The primary driver for killing the land line is cost, Golvin said. People who have less money to spend are the first to give up landlines.

“Most people are not cutting landlines because they are so enamored of wireless technology,” Golvin said. “These are people are literally deciding how to use their  telecom dollars,” he said.

Then there is the ripple effect of what runs on your land line.

If you have dial-up Internet service, you needed a phone line and people with DSL often believe they need a land line, he said.

“Even through you can get ‘naked DSL,’ (the phone companies) don’t promote that,” he said.

  • Have a Fax line? Then you need a land line.
  • What about a security system? Generally they rely on landlines to call out that something is amiss, he said.
  • Other technologies that depend on landlines include old Tivo systems and satellite TV boxes, he said.

“It’s the ‘back channel’ for these services,” Golvin said.

There is also an emotional connection to landlines. Cell phones have batteries that run out.

“Some older people … feel there is a safety net (with landlines),” Golvin said.  

Also, service can be spotty.

“You cannot be mobile only if you cannot get a signal at your house,” Golvin said.

Something else phone companies don’t advertise is that, even without service, you can make a 911 call, he said. 

So, perhaps we are holding onto landlines because we have money to spend, or we’re conservative and want the back up of reliability. Maybe we are workaholics and keep up on faxes from home.

Or it could be lack of cell phone reception. Let’s face it, when Nutmeggers get together and fight something like a big, ugly cell tower in our backyard, we often get what we ask for. And that means worse cell service, propagating our need for landlines. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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