Twice a year, the CDC releases a survey that shows the number of wireless-only households. That figure – as we’re sure you know – has been growing steadily for the past 20 years or so. And it’s taken its biggest jump in quite a few years: now at almost 66%. So only about a third of the country has a traditional home telephone.
What that means for emergency mass notification is that the traditional method of reaching people using wireline telephone data is becoming less and less effective. And doing so at an even faster rate.
The CDC cautions that the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected the survey’s accuracy. But we think it’s equally likely that the pandemic is the cause of this accelerating drop in traditional home phones. The increased economic stress of the last 19 months has probably forced some households to cut back on spending, and wireline phones are clearly expendable for many people. In addition, COVID has had its biggest impact on the elderly, who are the most likely to have a wired home phone.
The future looks even grimmer for landline phones. Over 80% of people aged 25 – 34 live in wireless-only households. As those people become a bigger share of the population, they – and the kids they’re having – are far less likely to have a home phone.
This is one of the reasons we put so much emphasis on getting citizens signed up for emergency alerts. And it’s a big part of why we developed AlertSmart™, our method of delivering mass notification through smart speakers, like Amazon Alexa.
Unlike home phones, smart speakers are growing, with current growth estimates of 17% per year. And they’re especially prevalent among younger households – the very people who are least likely to have a landline telephone. Finally, there are reasons to believe that some people are beginning to use smart speakers as a replacement for a telephone. Amazon Alexa devices, for example, can now be used to place and receive phone calls, as well as sending text messages.
As landline phones continue to drop in use, it’s critical for emergency managers to find new ways to communicate with the public. And you can count on Hyper-Reach to continue to research and develop new tools you can use to deliver your messages to your community.