More households choosing do without landline phone
More and more Illinois residents are cutting the cord, doing without a landline telephone.
It's a national trend. More than 20 million U.S. households - 17 percent of all homes with phones - are using only a cellular phone, according to a recent survey by the Nielsen Co.
That's up from 4.2 percent of households that were wireless only when surveyed in 2003.
In Illinois, 16.5 percent of households have dropped landline telephone service, according to estimates released earlier this month by the National Center for Health Statistics.
The top wireless state in the country is Oklahoma, where 26.2 percent of households are cell-only, according to the center. In Vermont, where mountainous terrain can create reception problems for cell phone customers, the percentage of cell-only households is 5.1 percent.
The wireless trend is likely to continue here, said Carolyn Schamberger, a Chicago-based spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless.
"The wireless trend has been going on for some time, but in these hard economic times, people are being more discriminating than ever," she said.
More people are using cell phones with added features, said Schamberger.
"One out of every three devices Verizon launched in 2008 was a personal digital assistant," she said.
Cell phone use involves more than just talk, said Schamberger, citing wireless activities such as texting, listening to music and receiving e-mails.
Others in the wireless industry agree.
"Cell phone and Internet use are now a must-have. Our customers want the same convenience they get online while on the go," said Cheryl Church, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in Illinois.
While features are important for cell phone users, so is service.
"We put up 55 cell towers all over central Illinois. We doubled our coverage area in Illinois in the past year," said Jodi Valenta, general manager for iPCS, a Sprint affiliate in central Illinois. "We're seeing very aggressive growth because people rely on their cell phones," she said.
What's the position of telephone giant AT&T, which supplies both landline and wireless phone service?
"We're all about choice," said spokeswoman Meghan Roskopf.
"(AT&T) is well-positioned to offer both services. While AT&T is the leading provider of home telephone service, wireless is definitely growing," said Roskopf, adding that landline service tends to be more reliable than cell signals that are more subject to interference.
Costs continue to drop for landline phone service, she said. "There are home phone plans as low as $18 a month," said Roskopf.
The wireless trend is responsible for the removal of phone lines from student housing by colleges across the country, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Bradley University is looking at that possibility, said Chuck Ruch, associate provost of information, research and technology.
"Landlines aren't nearly as heavily used as they used to be. Virtually all the students have cell phones now," he said.
Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 firstname.lastname@example.org.