What I'm about to say may make me seem like a Luddite or curmudgeon, but I'm disturbed by the news that an increasing number of Americans are reachable only by wireless phones.
A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 20 percent of American homes have only cell phones and another 14.5 percent of homes received all or almost all calls via cell phones even though they had a landline. The CDC says that it's the largest six-month increase in reliance on cell phones since it started the survey in 2003.
I'm not against cell phones. I started carrying one around when the first luggable models became available in the mid-'80s. I never go anywhere without my BlackBerry. But I still have an old-fashioned "POTS" line ("plain old telephone service") at home in addition to a VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) phone from Ooma.
My POTS line has corded (not just cordless) phones, which means they'll work even if the power fails. I just feel more secure knowing that there's a hard-wired phone near my bed in case I suddenly need to call 911 or in case someone needs to get hold of me when my cell phone isn't handy, turned on, or charged up. As a parent of young adults, I am acutely aware of the trend away from landlines. I couldn't even give my kids a wired phone.
I installed a Samsung UbiCell, which picks up cell phone calls via the Internet and broadcasts them throughout the house. T-Mobile offers its T-Mobile @Home service which routes cell phone calls through a broadband router even if you can't get service over the air. And there are cell phone extenders like the zBoost YX510, which amplifies weak signals.
The fact that my twentysomething kids have shunned landlines wouldn't surprise researchers at the CDC. More than 2 in 5 adults ages 25-29 live in households with only wireless telephones, according to its data. As age increases so does the likelihood of having a landline. Adults living in poverty were more likely to be living in households with only a wireless phone.
One reason it's of interest to the CDC is because many health surveys are conducted by telephone and if they call phones with landlines they'll miss 1 in 5 households.
Of course, there are advantages to cell phones, most notably the ability to reach someone wherever they are, including at home or at work. I just wish cell phones and the people who use them were more reliable. I wonder if they'll ever make one that never needs charging and can't be misplaced?
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