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America’s Growing Dependence on Cellphones a Liability During Disasters

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The downside of America’s growing dependence on cell phones has become increasingly apparent to the East Coast during Hurricane Sandy, it has become harder to communicate in emergencies.

Landlines are now seen by many consumers to be ancient technology and many now communicate more often with cellphones and other mobile devices. Unlike most landlines, these devices require electricity so if the power goes out, so does the ability to communicate.

According to sources, almost 40 percent of American homes are wireless with no landlines. There are now only 550,000 landlines in the country, which is down a staggering amount from the 2.1 million pay phones that existed a decade earlier, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Experts say the traditional methods of communications (land lines) are much more reliable in an emergency as they can work even when electricity is down.

Studies of cellular companies such as AT&T and Verizon say the telecommunications industry are investing less in landline networks as the demand has dwindled in recent years.

Recent storms like Hurricane Sandy and Katrina, as well as other natural disasters, have led a few public interest groups to argue that wireless providers should provide backup power for cell phone towers to ensure service during disasters. The industry responded by saying it would be too expensive to implement.

The plan would also require large amount of gasoline to power to the generators, a scarce source in a natural disaster.

On Tuesday, when Hurricane Sandy hit, 25 percent of cell towers went down in storm-affected regions. Almost 15 percent remained out still by Friday morning with downed trees and flooding keeping many crews from repairing the towers.


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