Many Minnesotans cutting the cord and going cell onlyby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans' phones are now wireless phones, according to the Department of Public Safety.
The department keeps counts on phones lines because the department oversees the state's 911 service.
Minnesotans have about 4 million wireless phones, and 2.3 million landline phones.
There's no current read on how many Minnesotans use only wireless phones. But nationally, the federal government estimates nearly a quarter of the nation's households are wireless-only.
Cord cutting spans generations, but it's especially common among the young.
Eric Severson, 24, of Roseville, a recent graduate of St. Cloud State, was at the Roseville Best Buy recently, checking out new cell phones. He has never had a landline phone.
"I'd say with people my age, we tend to move around a lot," he said. "So, having a landline ... it is not convenient. You have to keep telling somebody a new phone number every time you move."
Nationally, more than a third of 18- to 24-year-olds live in households that have only wireless phones, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But many folks in older generations also find it makes sense to drop landline phones. Landlines can't compete with smarter, more powerful phones that connect people to friends and family by voice -- and e-mail, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook.
Howard Googins of St. Paul, 58, dumped his landline last summer.
"I'm a minister and I've got to have availability 24-7, practically," he said. "So, having the cell phone just made more sense."
Googins' plan gives him about 1,000 minutes of talktime, plenty, he says, because he gets to make unlimited calls to ten people, as well as anyone who's an AT&T Wireless customer.
The shift from landline to wireless phones has been especially painful for companies like Qwest, which has been the biggest provider of traditional hard-wired phone lines in the state.
But according to documents filed with the state of Minnesota, between 2001 and 2009, Qwest lost about one million phone lines in Minnesota -- a drop of nearly half.
Still Qwest says it's transforming itself.
"We have evolved as a company, nd we have really invested in our fiber optic Internet in Minnesota." said Qwest spokeswoman Joanna Hjelmeland. "We always expect to have some landline customers. But what we're really focused on is growing our broadband customers and have people saying, 'Qwest isn't the phone company. It's my Internet company.'"
The Yankee Group, a telecommunications consulting firm, expects half of Americans may drop their landlines and go completely wireless.
The Yankee Group says many people value their wireless phones more than their landlines. So, consumers are looking to save money by dropping landlines.
Yankee Group analyst Tole Hart notes that many families figure they can be better connected by giving the kids cell phones. He says they take money spent on a landline and put it toward the cell phone bill.
"If you're able to cost effectively have everyone in your house have a cell, then you can conceivably drop the landline," Hart said.
Some folks insist they'll never drop their landlines.
The Yankee Group says about 45 percent of American are now in that camp. They like the superior call quality of traditional landlines.
They don't drop calls and they rarely fail to work, even in severe storms. That's why many Baby Boomers -- and their parents -- keep landlines to make emergency calls.
But in future decades, older generations may not be so tied to their corded phones.
Folks like Eric Severson don't see landlines in their future.
"It's old technology and it's not going to stick around forever. You just got to get used to it," he said.
Minnesotans certainly are -- in droves.
- Morning Edition, 12/08/2010, 7:25 a.m.