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May 16, 2013

 LIFE hosted by Google: “Who’s Tops in Telephones? It’s U.S.” advertisement for Bell Telephone System, July 19, 1948, p. 3

LIFE hosted by Google: “Who’s Tops in Telephones? It’s U.S.” advertisement for Bell Telephone System, July 19, 1948, p. 3. Large format retrieved from Graphic Mania.

From the text, we learn that in 1948 (according to Bell Telephone System) there were more telephones in New York City than in all of France:

There are more telephones in this country than in all the rest of the world put together. The United States has one telephone for about every four people, compared to one telephone for every ninety people for the rest of the world.

Sweden comes closest with one telephone for every eleven people. In Russia the estimate is about one in a hundred.

New York leads the world’s cities with the most telephones. It has 2,600,000―more than in all of France. In relation to population, San Francisco is on top with about one telephone for every two people. Washington ranks a close second.

And we’re still building and expanding at the fastest rate in history. The value of telephone service is increasing constantly.

In some cases, what is increasing is the price costumers have to pay to keep their landline telephone subscription, while some phone companies are contemplating the idea of terminating this service all together (see below, the Los Angeles Times article). Deregulation cannot be invoked as the sole explanation for the change in price. The ever increasing number of cell phone and smartphone subscriptions constitute a more probable explanation. As of December 2012, 87% of American adults own a cell phone or a smart phone. More than a third of American homes only had wireless service during the first half of 2012 (no landline telephone). Also, this “wireless substitution” –as the CDC calls it– does not mean that cables and landlines will disappear: even Google Fiber still relies on physical cables or landlines for Internet distribution. See the following resources for more detailed references:

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