Friday, Oct 31, 2014
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Is everybody going wireless?


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Holy Batphone, Batman, Florida has almost as many cellphones as people. According to the state Public Service Commission, about 18.5 million wireless handsets were in service in Florida as of June 2013, the most current data available, with a population of about 19.5 million people.

If this keeps up, Florida might soon have more cellphones than people.

And, while wireless phones keep growing, old-time wired home phones are plummeting. From 2003 through 2013, wireline residential access lines in Florida have declined a whopping 75 percent, or about 6 million lines.

Wireless-only households in Florida grew from 34.4 percent at the end of 2011 to 39.7 percent by the end of 2012. It is certainly more than that today. And soon it could be that more than 50 percent of Florida residents are without a home phone.

Some people, however, have switched to home phone service that comes over the Internet, either through a cable television providers or directly over the Internet from services such as Vonage, Skype or magicJack (spelled with small m). An estimated 2.8 million Florida residents are Internet phone subscribers.

What this all adds up to is that more businesses now have landlines than homes in Florida, for the third year in a row.

In its annual report to the legislature on industry competition, the state Public Service Commission documents what has become a mass migration of customers from traditional landline services to alternative technologies, such as wireless and Internet phone service.

How far we’ve come in a few short years, from the old black rotary dial telephone that some of us remember as wired into the baseboard of the wall in one fixed location in the family home.

Now, we’re using wireless phones from almost anywhere in the world, and for more than just receiving important phone calls.

According the Pew Research Internet Project, 81 percent of users reported using their wireless phone to send or receive text messages. About 60 percent use their phone to access the Internet. About 52 percent of respondents indicate that they use their phone to send or receive email. Approximately 50 percent of users also used their phone to download software applications, get directions, or listen to music.

And it’s not just young people using wireless devices. About 51 percent of adults over 55 own not merely a cell phone, but a smartphone with the latest technology.

And of course, wireless phones come with cameras, calendars, alarm clocks, games, address books, calculators, note pads, stop watches, timers and almost any other imaginable tool. You can even read a book on your cellphone.

We can control our home thermostat from a smartphone, check if kids are home from school or even turn on the stove for dinner.

The technology that was only imagined in science fiction and comic books of the 1950s has become commonplace in the 21st century. We’re already exceeded the Dick Tracy two-way wrist radio of a half century ago.

We wonder what will be the next development in modern-day communication. Or will we revert back to more face-to-face communication?

Joseph Santangelo is a former reporter for the Bergen Record in New Jersey and writer for magazines in Connecticut and Massachusetts. He has worked in business, government and community service.

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