NTCA/FRS Survey Explores Rural Youth Telecommunications Preferences

Sept. 12, 2005, Arlington, Va. - A survey revealed today by the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) and the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) shows rural youth are abandoning traditional wireline services in favor of wireless ones. The survey results were revealed at NTCA’s Fall Conference in Phoenix.

The 2005 Rural Youth Telecommunications Survey examined the wireless penetration rates and of more than 5,200 rural youth, ages 14-23. Cellular phone and Internet usage were also explored.

Fully two-thirds (67%) of survey respondents indicated they currently have a cellular phone, and utilize a variety of features on those wireless phones - including voice calling, text messaging, video gaming, and instant messaging, among others. Of those respondents with cellular phones, nearly three-quarters -72% - say the only time they use a wireline phone to place calls is when they are at home - usually to conserve their monthly allotment of cellular minutes. Additionally, 10% indicated they never use a wireline phone.

Cellular telephone service emerged as the telecommunications service considered most essential by survey respondents, followed by landline telephone, broadband Internet access, dial-up Internet service and wireless Internet service. Keeping in touch with parents or guardians was the most commonly cited reason for having a cellular phone - followed closely by personal safety issues and peace of mind.

The survey also revealed a number of internet usage and access preferences among rural youth. While 84% of respondents indicated they have an Internet connection in their home, more than half - 55% - report using a traditional dial-up telephone connection. 29% of respondents utilize DSL to connect to the Internet, with 5% citing cable modem usage and 3% citing wireless access. These numbers reflect the dominant role DSL plays in rural broadband infrastructure. The 84% Internet connection rate at home for rural youth is slightly higher than the national rate of 68%.

As in years past, email was the most commonly-cited online activity for respondents. However, the survey revealed that rural youth is increasingly utilizing the wide range of available communications channels over the Internet. Activities such as Instant messaging, Web surfing, downloading music, online gaming, shopping and blogging were also cited.

"The NTCA/FRS survey provides valuable insight into the youth market," said H.J. "Danny" Dandridge, FRS board president and general manager of Palmetto Rural Telephone Cooperative (Walterboro, S.C.). "If rural businesses - particularly community-based telecommunications providers - are to encourage our youth to stay in rural communities, we must continue to provide the most advanced services available. It is incumbent upon us to increase our awareness of the needs of youth if we are to preserve this valuable segment of our communities."

"This survey is an essential tool for exploring the many ways community-based telcos can attract and retain this critical market segment," said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Michael E. Brunner. "The data collected will prove useful as rural telcos develop their product and service offerings, and will help to ensure our members are able to maximize their youth-focused sales and marketing efforts."

Visit the FRS Web site to view the Rural Youth Survey Report.

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Contact Caitlin Colligan at 703-351-2086 NTCA is the premier association representing nearly 560 locally owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America.  NTCA provides its members with legislative, regulatory and industry representation; meetings; publications and educational programs; and an array of employee benefit programs.  Visit us at www.ntca.org.