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Cutting the cord on landlines

By C.J. CASTILLO
March 23, 2009 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated March 22, 2009 at 10:23 p.m.

Lori McBride

Three years ago Mike Withrow got rid of his landline telephone at home and has never looked back.

Withrow, a student at Victoria College, is among the growing trend of people dropping their landlines and depending entirely on cell phone service.

"I don't really miss the landline," Withrow said. "I like the convenience of the cell phone."

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that wireless-only phone use is on the rise in the nation. The study found that more than one out of every six American homes, 17.5 percent, had only wireless telephones during the first half of 2008. The percentage of adults using only wireless-only phones grew from 13.6 percent in 2007 to 16.1 percent in the first half of 2008.

Lori McBride, an instructor at Victoria College, said many of her students rely solely on their cell phones.

"A lot of them are dropping their landlines and using their cell phones exclusively to help cut costs," McBride said. "When I take polls in classes there are usually only one or two that don't have a cell phone."

McBride said that in her home they do have a landline, but only because her husband's business requires it. She said she relies on and makes all her calls on her cell phone.

Many of her colleagues have discussed dropping their landlines, McBride said.

"It's getting more and more prevalent," said McBride, referring to those leaving their landlines. "A lot of people use electronic lines through the Internet for their telephone connection."

Voice over Internet Protocol services, such as Vonage and Skype, allow the caller to transmit voice calls from high speed Internet connections.

As more rely on cell phones at home and when traveling, it is important for people to be aware of their surroundings when emergency situations arise.

Jean Smith is the dispatch supervisor for the 911 center in Victoria. She said 75 percent of their calls come from people on cell phones.

Smith said that when calls come from a cell phone and cell site that is Phase II capable, and the signal is triangulated, it is possible for them to get the location of a phone. If the location cannot be found, details of the location provided by the caller are vital.

Technology is a wonderful thing but the caller's information can make an enormous difference in quickly determining the location of the emergency, Smith said.

"When I started in this, almost everyone had regular home phone service ... and now we have VoIP," Smith said. "I never dreamed in a million years we'd go from a Commodore 64 for data retrieval to, my gosh, now I'm using a computer to talk across country."

VoIP services, requirements and details

Vonage - requires high-speed Internet, special hardware, paid account with Vonage. Users can set up and activate calls to 911. For more info: www.vonage.com

Skype - requires high speed Internet, Skype client software (free), headset or microphone. Calls to other Skype users are free, paid service allows calls to cell phones and other phones. Emergency calls cannot be made. For more info: www.skype.com

911 safety tips from a cell phone

Tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away.

Give the emergency operator your wireless phone number so that if the call gets disconnected, the operator can call you back.

Be able to name the nearest intersection

Keep in mind known landmarks near your location

Sources: Jean Smith, dispatch supervisor for Victoria 911 Center, FCC - www.fcc.gov

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