Still have a landline? So do about 40 percent of US households

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I can remember the last house I lived in with a landline, because it was my parents’. They still have one in addition to their cellphones, but almost half of U.S. households don’t have a landline at all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey released this week.

While about 47 percent of the 21,517 households polled only use cellphones, roughly 41 percent still have both landlines and mobile phones. About 8 percent of those in the survey don’t have cells at all, and around 3 percent are completely phoneless.

Those living in rural areas may use landlines as a backup for spotty cell service, but many others see it as a must-have in case of an emergency. The survey doesn’t seem to differentiate between landlines running on the old-school copper network and those using VoIP services. These Internet-based phones use fiber and cable networks, and in the event of a power outage, the phone won’t work like those on the older system will. Harold Feld, senior vice president of public-interest group Public Knowledge, estimates 80 million homes and businesses are still using the copper network, but soon, “There will be so few people on the network that it won’t be economical to maintain it,” Jon Banks, a senior vice president at United States Telecom Association, told the Associated Press back in August. Still, the FCC recently adopted a new rule that says your phone company has to tell you three months before it decides to abandon its copper network.

The NHIS has included queries about landlines and mobile phones since 2003. That year, just 3 percent of households surveyed were wireless only, and 43 percent relied on landlines. Jump ahead to 2009, and 20 percent of those surveyed were cell-only, and 17 percent were landline only. Any guesses on what the next six years will bring?


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