Telephone as communications anchor

There’s a lot of reporting on Americans who are cutting the cord – that is, going with wireless telephones only. But according to a new report by communications consultant John B. Horrigan Ph.D., the truth is much more complicated.

As Horrigan writes in Consumers and the IP Transition: Communications patterns in the midst of technological change:

“Many people embrace the new, some do not, and a lot of some of both. Even ‘tech shy’ people will send a text on a smartphone and stream video, while even the most ardent technophile might sometimes watch broadcast TV over the air after getting off a call on a landline phone. New technologies and services alter people’s communications habits, but they do not upend them completely"

In fact, a majority of Americans have a landline and nearly half have both a landline and wireless service. Horrigan found that among Americans who use both wireline and wireless:

•    Two-thirds (65%) say their calls at home are mostly on their landline; That figure is higher (72%) for households whose annual incomes are under $25,000.
•    82% say they keep their landline because they like its reliability
•    73% keep their landline because they like its connection quality
•    45% keep it the landline because it works when there is an electric outage.

Moreover, among respondents to Horrigan’s survey, most agreed that telephone service should include certain features. As he states:

•    “96% say it is very (88%) or somewhat (8%) important that the phone be able to reach emergency services such as 911.
•    “81% say it is very (49%) or somewhat (32%) important that a phone be able to reach all other numbers in the country.
•    “59% say it is very (24%) or somewhat (35%) important that a phone be able to communicate its location.”

As previous surveys have found, though, wireless-only individuals are clustered in several subgroups. For instance, among those 25-29, 65.7 percent are wireless only; in fact, people below the age of 34 are more likely than not to have just a cell phone. Among those classified as poor, the percentage is 56.2, and among African Americans, it’s 42.7 percent.

However while most Americans use IP-based communications, said Horrigan, “Online Americans see the telephone as an anchor for household communications  services and most  believe  that  telephone  service  should  support  features  such  as  emergency  services, interconnection, and location-based services.”

In short, for the older and more prosperous among us, it seems that landlines are an essential communications tool that may be with us for the foreseeable future.

Consumers and the IP Transition (Public Knowledge paper by, Nov. 2014)