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The disappearing landline
What it means that more Americans now rely only on cell phones to keep in touch
 

We’re not a cell-phone-only nation yet, said Peter Carey in the San Jose Mercury News, but with a little “push from the recession,” we’re heading in that direction. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that for the first time, more U.S. households have only cell phones—a bit more than 20 percent—than only landlines, at 17 percent. About 60 percent still have both, but “the trend is clear.”

If you doubt how fast “the momentum is shifting,” said the Watertown, N.Y., Daily Times in an editorial, look at the CDC’s numbers—in 2003, only 3 percent of households were cell-phone-only, versus 43 percent with only a landline. Or you can just “observe the number of people who walk while talking on their cell phone and who chat while driving.”

And it’s not just the young ditching landlines, either, said Carl Bialik in The Wall Street Journal. The growth in cell-phone-only adults was highest in the 30–64 set. Growth was also higher in rural areas and in the West. At this rate, when pollsters call landlines for the 2010 elections, they’ll miss 30 percent of homes, all over the U.S.

Pollsters aren’t the only ones fretting the shift, said Kristin Chambers in the Palatka, Fla., Daily News. When you call 911 from a landline, your location pops up. But emergency responders worry that cell phones can only be located by triangulation, and calls are more easily dropped.

 

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