Friday, April 22, 2011

U.S. homes trending toward wireless-only phones

While homeowners battle tough economic challenges, the trend of disappearing land lines is increasing in an number of U.S. household, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

As of June 2010, about 26.6% of households had only a wireless phone, up from 13.6% in 2007. And the number of wireless-only homes is increased in every state throughout the U.S.

Stephen Blumberg, a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics states that "the phrase 'home telephone number' is going the way of rotary dial phones."

The trend of more people using their cellphones more often "poses an even greater sense of urgency to conduct studies to try to determine whether there are or there are not ill effects from the use of cellphones to the brain," says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "The reality is (phones are) widely utilized, and yet we have minimal information."

Lower economic status households are more likely to be wireless-only, according to the researchers, who used data and trends from tens of thousands of respondents to the National Health Interview Survey and the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey.

"States such as Arkansas, Mississippi and Kentucky have a higher proportion of households living with low income," Blumberg added, "and giving up a land line is one way to save money."

Even if Raleigh homes have a land line, it is not necessarily used. Many are deciding to cut the cord. "All they get are solicitations, and most calls are done on a wireless phone anyway, so it represents a waste of money," says analyst Charles Golvin of Forrester Research.

The wireless-only trend among Apex homes is not likely to be reversed. "Unless the carriers are able to create some new applications or services such as video calling," Golvin says.

In North Carolina, Cary homes that rely on wireless phones are being advised to check their local emergency preparedness department to see if its "Reverse 911" communication systems can incorporate cellphones.

The trend toward wireless phones presents some difficulties for public safety officials, says Francisco Sanchez of the Harris County Homeland Security office. "But the benefit is that now we have a communications device that people carry all the time. So we need to know how to utilize that if we are going to be able to do our jobs effectively in the future."