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Not your father’s telephone

Students choose mobile phones over landlines

Natasha Pierce-Slive (CFA’07) has had several homes since transferring to BU sophomore year — she spent one semester at the Hyatt in Cambridge, another in the brownstones on Bay State Road, and her junior and now her senior year in off-campus apartments. But she’s never had to worry about whether her friends can find her because instead of installing a telephone in any apartment or dorm, she’s always used her mobile phone.

Cell phones have replaced traditional
landlines. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

“We’re getting to a point where people don’t use regular phones anymore,” says Pierce-Slive. “I think having two phones would actually be more confusing, because you would have to check both of them.”

Just a few years ago, according to James Shea, director of BU’s Office of Telecommunications, close to 9,000 students started the school year by purchasing landline services from service provider Verizon through the telecommunications office. “Then there was a real shift, and students started bringing cell phones,” he says. “By 2003 it was like we lost 80 percent of the customer base.”

This year there are about 600 students with telephones in their rooms, Shea says, and 500 of those are resident advisors, who are required to have them and are compensated by the University for the cost. In a BU Today Quick Poll, which drew approximately 40 responses, 81 percent of the respondents said they had not hooked up their landlines this year.

“I have a cell phone, so there’s really no point to having a landline,” says Erin Dickey (CAS’08). “Landlines are definitely obsolete.”

The University continues to offer the service, which costs $22 a month, because it still has two years remaining on a contract with Verizon. The contract is based on utilization, so the system does not put the cost burden on the University, Shea says; however, when the contract expires in two years, it will not be renewed.

The Office of Telecommunications is now exploring other options to offer students, such as a campus phone number that can be redirected to any portable wireless device.

“The students want mobility, like we do, and that’s reality,” Shea says. “We knew this was coming, and we budgeted for it. There were no surprises.”