Blog Post

Over half of American homes don’t have or use their landline

It’s not really surprising but over half of Americans don’t have or use a land line, according to data published late last week by the Centers for Disease Control. The study tracks the demographics of land line telephone use and was designed to help the CDC adapt its data collection programs, which relied heavily on calling land lines. While the pitfalls of relying on landlines for surveys is well known, the report has some worthwhile stats on the demographics of landline telephone use.

The survey found that more than one-third of American homes (35.8 percent) had only wireless telephones during the first half of 2012 while 15.9 percent of all households had both landline and wireless telephones but received all or almost all calls on the wireless phones. This means 51.7 percent of U.S. homes don’t have or didn’t use their landlines in the first half of 2012. That’s a 1.8 percent increase from the same period a year ago.


Here are some more insights from the survey:

  • The young eschew landlines. Six in 10 adults aged 25–29 (60.1 percent) lived in households with only wireless telephones. That number drops as household members get older.
  • Renters love wireless. More than half of all adults renting their home (58.2 percent) had only wireless telephones. This rate is more than twice as large as the rate for adults owning their home at 23.2 percent.
  • The poor like wireless too. Adults living in poverty (51.8 percent) were more likely than adults living near poverty (42.3 percent) and higher income adults (30.7 percent) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Landline owners are more likely to have health insurance, than those in wireless only homes. The percentage without health insurance coverage at the time of interview among wireless-only adults under age 65 (27.9 percent) was greater than the percentage among adults in that age group living in landline households (15.1 percent).
  • Men are more likely than women to live in wireless-only homes. Men (35.2 percent) were more likely than women (32.9 percent) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.

As the FCC begins its regulatory process to change the rules associated with landline access and telcos like AT&T(s t) and Verizon(s vz) try to get out of the landline business altogether, it’s clear that the phasing out of copper-based voice lines will have repercussions that go beyond telephone calls. Understanding how it affects the reporting of health data and adapting to that is just one of them.

21 Responses to “Over half of American homes don’t have or use their landline”

  1. Oscar Zamora

    it’s Voice over IP since 2004 here. from a cordless phone is more convenient, in my house. Plus it bundles calling card services which I can use with my cellphones. 15 a month, can’t complain.

  2. tweetiepooh

    A big advantage of a land line is that when you dial emergency services (999 in the UK) they know where you are so if you are having a critical issue and can’t complete the call the services can be sent to where the phone is. A real big plus.

    Another big plus is that (here in the UK) the phone line has it’s own power so will work if your home has the power out (as long as it’s not affecting the whole area). That’s why we still have an old fashion wired phone on a standard line as well as wireless handsets on the same. We can still make calls if internet and/or power is out. Mobiles cost much more.

  3. We have all become migrant workers, so mobility is critical, and landlines will slowly disappear due to lack of support. But during many power outages, with cell towers down, satellite phones will be necessary for critical communications (have multiple batteries charged ahead of time).

    Those phones are cheaper now days, and work where cell coverage is poor, like when I go hiking or traveling outside of major cities in the West. But remember, power outages can last a while. There are several good portable sat phones now on the market. Does anyone know that market segment, and its costs to end users?

  4. Nicolas Martin

    I just bought some new phones and now use my “landline” more than ever, but hardly with a conventional set-up. I access Google Voice through an Obi100 device that cost me about $25. My annual cost of usage is zero. The call quality is much better than a cell phone, which still makes AM radio sound like Lincoln Center. This approach is cheaper, more reliable, and better sounding than the lowly Magic Jack, which I also have but will not renew, and it connects to the router, so no computer required. The only negative is that Google has disturbingly stopped innovating Google Voice. One suspects that the company might drop the service. Couldn’t Google make some nice change charging just $5 a month for its phone service?

    It is ironic that with tech progress has come aesthetic regression. CDs have been supplanted by inferior MP3s and POTS lines have been replaced with cell phones that obliterate conversational nuance. But there are still choices, so I rip my CDs as Apple Lossless, and use phones with fine call quality.

  5. Interesting that this comes from the CDC. Once AT&T announced the 4G LTe network I let my landline go (I thought it was LAN line). I’ve got two smartphones — one for my Austin real estate work and one for home — so I’m all set.

  6. Dev Bhatia

    I haven’t had a landline since the late 90s. I think I’m among the early adopters on this trend. But here’s a wrinkle. I suspect that among early adopters, there is a group that is so out there, that it is contemplating returning to land lines! Yes, I know it sounds crazy. But here’s why. I use my cell for business calls, and I find that often, the other party hears my voice in low quality. I’ve already ditched Bluetooth headsets for this reason. Even a wired headphone with a boom mic has trouble. I miss having the clarity and depth of old copper. And I bet I’m not alone.

    Who’d have thunk it?

  7. majortom1981

    I wish I could get rid of my cablevision voip. I was all set to till sandy hit. ATT hasn’t repaired my local cell tower and now I get 1 bar signal by my house on long island.

  8. I have a landline for two reasons:

    1) It came for “free” with the Comcast Triple-play, and

    2) It serves the same purpose as my Hotmail account – SPAM magnet. We know that anyone calling the “home” phone is someone we don’t want to talk to, so we don’t even have a phone plugged into it and no voicemail.

  9. Cheap AT&T DSL ($20/month for 6MBps down) compensates for the more expensive land-line here.

    Plus cable goes down whenever the wind blows hard.

    Never a loss of internet service w/ DSL.

    • Nicolas Martin

      You get 6mbps from AT&T DSL? I just checked the company’s web site, and the top speed it offers to my house is “Downstream speed up to 1.5 Mbps” for an introductory price of $24.95 a month.

  10. I know for a fact that Comcast doesn’t make a dime on POTS service. They throw it in just because the other guys have it. I can’t imagine how the legacy bells, with their heavily unionized workforce (at least on the wireline side) make any money at all… Oh wait, Verizon doesn’t make any money on residential POTS, only commercial and business customers. Good thing they have all that wireless revenue to prop up the stock…

  11. The numbers presented by the CDC are simply wrong on multiple levels — The numbers are only looking at “voice’ service and are only looking at residential customers. how many businesses are ‘wireless only? How many households have DSL or broadband or internet over the wire?

    The reason this is important? You write:

    >As the FCC begins its regulatory process to change the rules associated with landline access and >telcos like AT&T and Verizon try to get out of the landline business altogether, it’s clear that the >phasing out of copper-based voice lines will have repercussions that go beyond telephone calls. >Understanding how it affects the reporting of health data and adapting to that is just one of them.

    1) AT&T’s U-Verse is based on copper wire and the company doesn’t include their Digital Voice service that use these ‘copper wires. —

    2))Moreover, what about the businesses in these areas or the customers who use DSL or any other service —

    3) And what about those who have work at home businesses who use that phone wireline phone for say DSL or even FAX?

    4) These ‘copper networks should have been upgraded to fiber– customer paid about $3000.00 per household for these upgrades. — And AT&T and Verizon are abandoning their obligations to actually do these upgrades.

    5) the wires that are used for ‘wireless’ cell site — as the wireless calls or even Wi-Fi spots are all attached to those wires — which are also not part of the accounting — are not being discussed or added to the analysis of ‘closing down the ‘old wiring’…

    6) We have no idea how many customers are using a wire so making the claim that the wiring should be closed down before we know ALL lines in use — which no company or regulator is providing — is the question that should be asked by reporters —

    • None of what you described could be called POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). An autodialer can’t call a WiFi hotspot, and there’s no handset for anyone to answer on it anyway. DSL and other data lines don’t have phones plugged into them either. As for cell towers, most of them are upgraded or being upgraded to fiber backhaul these days because T1 or even T3s don’t have enough bandwidth.

      • You missed the point — POTS is 1 service over the wire and the claim is that POTS is the same as the wires it’s not. The CDC numbers, for example, only deal with POTs — and don’t count actual wires — the actual access lines

        And the FCC et al quote the FCC on ‘access lines — but they, to have decided that all that should be counted is regulator phone service POTS>

        I’m arguing that their plan to close down the PSTN is because they have manipulated the data to use this ‘sub-set’ of services that goes over the wires and the CDC accounting is also a subset of the total lines.

        This is the definition of the PSTN as told by the FCC in one of their previous dockets (and included as footnote in the Connect America Fund Order, from 2011

        “The public switched telephone network is not a single-use network. Modern network infrastructure can provide access not only to voice services, but also to data, graphics, video, and other services.”

  12. Every time one of those comcastic deals comes in the mail, I have to laugh. They think I would be interested in a triple deal … when one of the very reasons I have cable TV and internet is so I won’t have to pay another greedy monopoly for a wired phone. MCI charged me $30.50 monthly in 2003, but by 2008 that had jumped to $55.50. After canceling, they had the gaul to tell me I had to cancel long distance service separately – and they tried to extort more money for that. Now that company is Verizon, and I won’t do any deal with them, either.

    Your points above as to who is more likely to have a wireless home are just backwards for me. I am not young, renting, or poor, and I have health insurance.

    Sending and receiving a fax was the only reason I might have needed a wired phone. Real estate persons had not yet learned to scan a document and send it as a pdf attachment with an email when I last had a wired phone for my all-in-one machine, although the last document I had to sign and return I signed, scanned and sent as a pdf to my realtor.

    My brother-in-law still has a wired phone. He pays ATT more than half the monthly charge just for “other” fees and taxes (54%). His $21.50 monthly balloons to $33.12 this month. Three years ago it was $17.50 plus fees and taxes of $10.76 (61%).

    Who needs them?!

  13. Nicholas Paredes

    I am using a twisted pair for DSL, simply because AT&T data policies made it more cost effective. Sometimes, a customer can simply not pay enough for service. Reminds me of the health insurance industry…

    Prior to this, I hadn’t had a land line since I bough my son his first cell phone at 12 in 1998. It was also cheaper than the two land-lines.