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More Families Pull The Plug On Their Home Phone

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More Families Pull The Plug On Their Home Phone


More Families Pull The Plug On Their Home Phone

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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As the world of smartphones expands, use of that old-fashioned contraption -the home phone - is shrinking. Government research shows that more and more households are getting rid of their landlines. And for the first time ever, homes that have only cell phones outnumber those with just landlines.

NPR's Tovia Smith sent us this postcard from the twilight days of the family phone.

TOVIA SMITH: Kelly Fitzsimmons did not give up her phone without a fight. The instrument of gossip and grand plans and the bearer of bad news and good, the landline to her was a lifeline.

Ms. KELLY FITZSIMMONS: I just had in my head, you got to have a landline, you got to have a landline. That's the phone to your home. It's home base.

SMITH: But last fall, with the down economy forcing hard decisions, Fitzsimmons was finally persuaded.

Ms. FITZSIMMONS: There's a hole, the jack for the phone, and there's no phone.

SMITH: They cut the cord, added two cell phones to their family plan for the oldest of their four kids and started saving $150 a month.

(Soundbite of ring tone)

SMITH: Today, her house in Harvard, Massachusetts is a cacophony of electronic ditties…

Unidentified Child #1: Hey.

(Soundbite of ring tone)

Unidentified Child #2: Hello?

SMITH: And kids in constant conversation.

Unidentified Child #2: I'm coming over to your house today, right? Do you want to come over? For a sleepover, right? In, like, a half an hour.

SMITH: With everyone now talking at once, what you don't hear anymore is the constant war over whose turn it is.

Unidentified Child #2: We used to, like, start fighting, like, I have to call my friends.

Ms. FITZSIMMONS: Now, I remember the days when I was in high school, I had a 15-minute phone limit.

Unidentified Child #3: Hold on a sec, what gives?

Ms. FLORENCE HENDERSON (Actor): (As Carol Brady) That's how much time you're allowed on the phone. And when the sand runs out, it's goodbye Charlie.

Unidentified Child #4: Would you get off the phone? I'm supposed to call…

(Soundbite of arguing)

SMITH: The battle the Brady Bunch fought are as foreign now to the Fitzsimmons kids as the rotary dial.

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

SMITH: Mom says it was nostalgia that made her pick the most retro ring tone for her iPhone.

Ms. FITZSIMMONS: Well, it's, you know, old meets new, I guess.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: She says the biggest challenge to going cell-only is remembering to carry it from room to room.

Ms. FITZSIMMONS: You just don't hear it. So, hard just to reach in my home sometimes.

(Soundbite of dialing)

(Soundbite of voicemail message)

MEGAN(ph): Hi, it's Megan, I'm not here right now. Please…

SMITH: It's also problematic if cell phones are off or uncharged. It can be impossible to reach a house full of kids. But overall, Fitzsimmons says, switching to cell has brought the family closer.

Ms. FITZSIMMONS: I do feel more connected. It's something I can just say a quick hello from work, or they'll call me, too. They'll say, mom, I got an A on this test. So it encourages the communication.

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

MEGAN: There's Megan.

Ms. FITZSIMMONS: Hey sweetie, how's it going?

SMITH: The kids tell pretty much the same story. And they say they especially love getting a call at home on their cell.

MEGAN: It feels, like, special because they're calling me. We know that they want to talk to us, when somebody calls.

SMITH: By the same token, being able to dial directly to the person you want instead of going through a family line means fewer of those forced conversations. As one professor of cell phone technology put it, I hardly ever speak to my mother-in-law anymore.

Tovia Smith, NPR News.

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