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North Dakota residents scale back use of landlines

Brandon Stone talks on the phone earlier this month while shopping with his daughter Ava, 9, at West Acres mall in Fargo. The Stone family is planning on eliminating their landline. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FARGO - More than half of Americans, 51.7 percent, no longer regularly use a landline telephone in their homes, a recent National Health Interview Survey by the CDC shows.

North Dakota's switchover to cellphones has been strong, states the CDC report that measured phone use in states from 2010-11.

About 41.6 percent of North Dakotans are strictly cellphone users in their homes. Only Idaho at 44.6 percent, Arkansas 42.4 at percent and Mississippi at 42.3 percent posted higher cell-only usage, stated the CDC's National Health Statistics Report.

Meanwhile, 32.3 percent of Minnesotans were strictly cellphone users in their household.

More than a third of American homes, 35.8 percent, have only wireless or cellular telephones, while 15.9 percent of all homes received all, or nearly all, calls on cellphones in the first six months of 2012, even though they also had a landline, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey states.

Rhode Island has the lowest number of households that only used cellphones at 15.3 percent.

During a recent visit to West Acres mall in Fargo, people strolled with cellphones pressed to their ears or sat on the chairs texting, reading email, playing games or surfing the Internet with their phones.

Jacob Rolf and his wife, Sarah, of Fergus Falls, Minn., said cellphones are convenient and if everyone in the family shares the same provider, long-distance calling is cheap.

"A landline is just an unneeded expense," Rolf said.

"I think more than anything, it's coming down to cost," Rolf said, with people going all wireless "unless they're the grandparents."

"We're all wireless. It's cheaper," West Fargo resident Zach Messmer said.

The long-distance calls are cheap, and they're handy in emergencies, he said.

"No use for a landline anymore," Messmer said.

The CDC found:

• Four major groups live in households with only cellular phones: adults ages 25 to 34; adults living only with unrelated adult roommates; adults renting their homes; and adults living in poverty.

• Six in 10 adults ages 25 to 29 live in households with only cellphones. For adults ages 18 to 24, the rate is 49.5 percent; and for ages 30 to 34, 55.1 percent.

• Nearly 76 percent of adults living with unrelated adults were in homes with only cellphones.

• Of adults renting their home, 58.2 percent only had a cellphone.

• Of adults living in poverty, 51.8 percent only had a cellphone in their home.

• Men (35.2 percent) are more likely than women (32.9 percent) to live in households with only a cellphone.

Bob Michels, of Pelican Rapids, Minn., isn't ready to ride the wave to an all cellphone world.

"They aren't that big a deal for me," he said, flashing his flip phone.

"We have a landline" for all but long-distance calls, he said. "It's easier for my wife's relatives."

Otherwise, he doesn't need a phone to keep entertained, he said.

"My wife and I still have the art of conversation with each other," Michels said.