In today’s Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Sparshott looks at how Americans are abandoning traditional landlines in droves:
More than a quarter of U.S. households have ditched landline phones, a trend driven by younger Americans relying on their cellphones, according to Census Bureau data released Thursday.
Just 71% of households had landlines in 2011, down from a little more than 96% 15 years ago. Cellphone ownership reached 89%, up from about 36% in 1998, the first year the survey asked about the devices.
The youngest households are abandoning landlines in droves. About two-thirds of households led by people ages 15 to 29 relied only on cellphones in 2011, compared with 28% for the broader population.
This fundamental shift in how people connect is one of the big drivers of the so-called “IP Transition.” As providers watch their customers change the way they communicate, they’re upgrading their networks to be powered solely by Internet Protocol. And it’s not just providers who see where things are going. As FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai wrote in the National Journal last April:
America is in the midst of a technological revolution, what some call the IP Transition (“IP” stands for the Internet Protocol, which is the technical foundation for all these changes). IP-based networks are different from the copper-based networks of yesteryear in a fundamental way: They were not designed for voice service alone. Instead, IP-based technologies break down every kind of communication (voice, video, e-mail and more) into digital bits and transport those bits more efficiently and cheaply than ever before.
Despite these vast changes in the communications marketplace, the Federal Communications Commission hasn’t caught up. We still view the world as if consumers were at Ma Bell’s mercy, relying on copper lines to get basic voice service. As a result, we have a lot of obsolete rules on our books. (Just two months ago, the FCC finally repealed a rule first adopted by its Telegraph Division during the Great Depression!) These old rules aren’t just harmlessly yellowing with age. They are affirmatively discouraging companies from investing in next-generation networks.
Commissioner Pai’s focus on “obsolete rules” was important then and even more important today. As the Wall Street Journal article shows, Americans are plowing forward into the all-IP future. Providers are working to build out the infrastructure necessary to keep up with them. We simply can’t risk having dusty regulations slow things down.