Surprises in new study of cell-only customers


A new study from the National Center for Health Statistics shows one particularly unexpected trend about who is cell phone only and who is not in the United States.

Cell phones used to be reserved for the affluent or for business owners. I recall getting my first cell (for a vehicle) when I owned a chain of travel agencies and paying $1,025 for it used. That was a very different era.

If you watch old TV shows in rerun, you can sometimes see the progression of mobile phones as they tried to make characters look hip. You may see the bag phones, then the “bricks” and then the Motorola StarTAC that looked like it was out of Star Trek. There have been so many cycles! But until about 10 years ago, cell phones were a tool of business or a toy of the rich.

Yet the National Center for Health Statistics shows that those who are likeliest to be cell phone only now generally fall into 2 categories: Those who make less than the national average income and the young.

So in the first instance, states with the lowest overall income have the highest proportion of cell phone only users. States with the highest income, particularly the Northeast, have the fewest cell-phone only customers. (Of course, some of this could also be weather related. People in the Northeast may want a home phone in the event of severe weather.)

The real puzzle here for me is that nobody in the local monopoly phone company business has thought about offering cheaper home phone service to retain customers or lure others back. That could be because monopoly-minded companies are often hostile to the free market.

But still, how about it, monopolies? Offering deals might be one way to get people not to disconnect.

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