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Florida Continues Cutting Phone Cords

August 8, 2019 - 7:15am

Floridians continue hanging up on traditional phone service.

With cell phones in hand --- or in their back pockets --- and access to broadband technology, hundreds of thousands of Florida residents and businesses stopped using landline phones in 2018, a new state report on the telecommunications industry shows.

The trend of cutting phone cords has been happening for years. Nevertheless, the report includes numbers that illustrate the extent of the shift: For example, traditional wirelines declined in the state from about 2.5 million in December 2017 to 1.9 million in December 2018. They dropped by 1.9 million, or about half, from 2014 to 2018.

Meanwhile, the latest data available showed nearly 20.8 million wireless subscriptions in Florida --- roughly a cell phone for every resident. At the same time, broadband access has allowed Floridians to use internet-based calling technology, known in the telecommunications world by the wonky name Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

“Wireline access lines for both residential and business customers have maintained a steady decline over the past several years. This contrasts with the continued growth in wireless-only households,” said the report released last week by the Florida Public Service Commission. “Business wireline declines have been partially offset by significant growth in business VoIP lines. Carriers are managing the shifts in market conditions by bundling services and providing a variety of pricing plans in an attempt to meet consumer demand and expectations.”

The commission publishes such a report each year to examine competition in the telecommunications industry. In releasing the new edition, the commission pointed to technological changes in the industry, while also saying most Floridians appear to be able to afford telephone service.

“Many Florida consumers now live in wireless-only homes and use wireless and broadband services,” commission Chairman Art Graham said. “As the pace for technological innovation quickens, companies are investing in advanced technologies that best serve the diverse needs of today’s consumers, while also boosting Florida’s economic growth.”

CenturyLink was the largest residential landline provider last year, despite seeing a 30.2 percent decrease in the number of residential landline customers, the report said. The two other largest providers, AT&T and Frontier, saw declines in residential landlines of 19.8 percent and 24.1 percent, respectively.

The report said 57.5 percent of Florida households were wireless-only in 2017, somewhat higher than the national rate of 52.5 percent, according to the latest data available from the Federal Communications Commission. The number of wireless subscriptions in Florida declined by a slight 0.4 percent in 2017.

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