On December 14, 2015, I published an article at http://bit.ly/2qGwZin, Things You Don’t See Anymore. I described a number of things that used to be common in American life but have since almost disappeared. I listed a bunch of things, including “rotary telephones” and “telephone party lines.” I guess it is now time to update that list.
If I was to republish the list today, I would have to add “wired telephones.”
An article in the BBC News web site points out one major change in the past decade: the number of U.S. homes that have an old-fashioned, wired telephone obtained from the local telephone company has now dropped to less than 50%. That is a number that few people would have dreamed of ten years ago.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed thousands of Americans and found most American homes contain at least one cell phone; but, for the first time ever, fewer than half the homes have a wired phone obtained from the telephone company.
I count myself in the majority: I had my wired telephone disconnected years ago and switched to a VoIP telephone that directed all calls over the Internet. About two years ago, I disconnected the VoIP phone and now use my cell phone as my only phone. Apparently, I have a lot of company as millions of other Americans have made the same decision.
The CDC says 50.8% of homes have at least one mobile phone but no landline, an increase of 2.5% since the same period in 2015. I found it interesting that a further 3.3% of homes surveyed had neither a mobile phone nor a landline. (I am not yet ready to get rid of my cell phone.)
In the UK, the proportion of mobile-only households is much lower. Figures from the telecoms and communications watchdog, Ofcom, show that at the start of 2017, just 18% of UK households were mobile-only.
My thanks to newsletter reader Mike Mallett for telling me about the CDC study.
Comment #1: As genealogists, we should be recording changes in the lifestyles of our ancestors, relatives, and ourselves. If you or any of your relatives have disconnected the phone from “Ma Bell,” perhaps you should record that fact in your database.
Comment #2: If you have marginal or non-existent cell phone service in your home, you NEED a cell phone!
Specifically, you need a dual-mode cell phone that automatically switches between the cellular network and the wi-fi router installed in your home. Dual-mode phones invisibly place calls over the Internet whenever possible, then use the cellular network only when wi-fi service is not available.
If you have broadband Internet service and a wi-fi router installed at home, switching to a dual-mode cell phone will provide crystal clear telephone calls in your home, even when there is no nearby cell tower. It also should significantly reduce the price of your telephone service(s).
Dual-mode cell phones are now available in the U.S. from Google’s Project Fi, Republic Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and Verizon; these providers offer built-in wi-fi calling on some cell phones although not all of their phones.
I now use the dual-mode cell phone service from Google Project Fi although I previously used a Republic Wireless dual-mode phone for a couple of years and found it worked well, too. I switched from Republic Wireless to Google Project Fi primarily because Google Project Fi works well on three different U.S. cellular networks plus local cellular networks when traveling overseas plus on wi-fi worldwide. Republic Wireless only works on the Sprint cellular network within the US plus on wi-fi networks worldwide. However, Republic Wireless doesn’t work on cellular networks outside the U.S. but Google Project Fi does. I travel overseas frequently and need the better coverage offered by Project Fi.
I described dual-mode cell phones last year in my other blog at: https://privacyblog.com/2016/08/01/what-is-wi-fi-calling-and-why-would-i-want-it/.
I suggest you first do some reading to become familiar with the concept of dual-mode cellular and wi-fi phones, then purchase a new dual-mode cell phone of your choice and use it as a second cell phone for a while. See how it works out for you at home and in the areas where you travel. If you decide to keep the new phone, you can cancel your old phone and have the old phone number ported to your new phone at any time. Unlike the old-fashioned cellular companies, both Republic Wireless and Google Project Fi allow you to cancel at any time. There are no contractual minimums.
Why pay for two phones? A dual-mode cell phone can do everything your old-fashioned wired telephone can do and a lot more.
Comment #3: I certainly am not a financial advisor, but it seems fair to say that this is not a good time to purchase stock in one of the companies whose primary business is old-fashioned, wired telephone service. I will suggest they are today’s equivalent of buggy whip manufacturers.