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I say more towers and fewer land lines

April 25th, 2011 Comments off

As an iPhone user, the news that AT&T is expanding and upgrading its wireless network in Mississippi is more than great, it is ….
Oh, sorry, I had a dropped call.
You get the point.
Even AT&T Mississippi CEO Mayo Flynt admitted to the Mississippi Business Journal a few months back that even he has a hard time with reception from time to time. He says his home is at the bottom of a hill, which leads to reception issues.
The company said in a statement last week that it plans to add 50 cell sites in the state in 2011. More than 100 existing cell sites will be upgraded and capacity will be enhanced at sites across the state.
In 2010, AT&T says it added 50 new cell sites in Mississippi and upgraded some 90 existing sites to mobile broadband.
AT&T says the improvements are part of a $19-billion companywide capital investment this year.

Who needs a home phone?
With the news that AT&T is adding towers, which would presumably lead to better reception across the state, why in the world would you want to have a home phone? Well, apparently that is a good question.
In a story from last week, it was reported that a  growing number of Americans are getting rid of their old land line telephones and using only cell phones, a trend led not by the high-tech elite but by people in poorer states trying to save money.
And guess who is leading the way?
You’ve got it.
Mississippi.
Government estimates show at least 30 percent of adults in 10 states rely entirely on cell phones, with the highest percentage in Arkansas and Mississippi, where many cannot afford to pay for two separate lines.
Wealthier households have been slower to use wireless technology as their sole means of making calls.
“The answer’s obvious: No one has money here,” John N. Daigle, a professor of electrical engineering at Ole Miss with broad experience in the telecommunications industry, told the Associated Press. “If they can do without a land line, they will do it to save money.”
Sure, I would do it to save money, too. In fact, we have had that conversation at our house. My wife and I both have cell phones. Everyone who needs to contact us, knows how to.
However, we keep our land line for security system and emergency needs, as well as the convenient daily telemarketer calls at just about the time we are putting a kids to bed.
Clay Chandler, here in our newsroom, recently thought about the same thing in his new home. We talked at length about it. Not because we are poverty stricken — although we do live on journalists salaries — but because it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay for more phones that you really need.
According to the AP story about 35 percent of adults in Mississippi have only cell phones, according to figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In New Jersey and Rhode Island, the states where the smallest proportion of people depend solely on wireless phones, that figure is only 13 percent.
Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the nation — 21.9 percent in 2009, according to the Census Bureau. The Arkansas figure was 18.8 percent. The nationwide rate is 14.3 percent.
In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau defined poverty as a single person making less than $11,000 a year or a family of four making less than $22,000 a year.
“I think people decide, ‘I can afford one but not the other,’” said Ellen Reddy, who works for a nonprofit community center that helps low-income residents in Holmes County. She said poor people in her area often have cell phones with a limited number of minutes.
Again, however, it comes down to a business decision. You don’t have to be poverty stricken to make a decision to have one phone instead of two.
Sounds like folks in Mississippi, poor or not, have made the right decision.
Now, if we can get those new AT&T towers up quickly, so my wife doesn’t think I have hung up on her while I am driving past Highland Village in Jackson.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.