September 29, 2009 - Survey Explores Young Rural Americans' Telecom Usage, Preferences

Arlington, Va., Sept. 29, 2009 - The 2009 Rural Youth Telecommunications Survey, conducted jointly by the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) and the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), finds a significant number of today's young rural Americans view cellular telephone service more essential than traditional telephone service, and the group considers cellular phones much more than just a means of making voice calls.

Nearly nine out of ten respondents indicated they have a cell phone, citing a variety of reasons why, including their parents'/guardians' desire to reach them, to stay in touch with friends, to make long distance calls, for job-related reasons and for safety concerns.

Ninety percent of respondents use cell phones for purposes other than making voice calls.  The majority use their phones for text messaging (72%) and picture taking (50%).  Other activities respondents engage in include downloading ringtones (18%), playing MP3 files (18%), playing video (12%) and surfing the Web (11%).  Of those that do not use such advanced services, nearly half (45%) feel they cost too much and a third (33%) indicated no need for the services.  A very small percentage (3%) indicated they did not know if advanced services were available in their area.

A significant portion of survey respondents are generally satisfied with their cell phone service, which the majority (76%) receiving service from a national carrier.  Twelve percent receive service from their local telephone company, an increase from 7% in 2008.

More than half (57%) use between 500 and 750 minutes per month.

According to the survey, more than 90% of rural youth have an Internet connection in their home, and 49% receive the service from their local telephone company.  Nearly half (48%) of respondents spend between one and three hours online daily, with 24% falling into the category of "heavy users," meaning they are online for more than three hours per day.  E-mail (72%) continues to top respondents' list of online activities, with homework/research (70%), online communities (61%) a close second and third, respectively.  Fourteen percent of survey respondents take online classes from home, up from 11% last year.

"Young rural Americans hold the key to ensuring the communities they grew up in remain vibrant parts of our national fabric-and the availability of advanced communications services is essential to helping those communities prosper," said FRS Executive Director Elizabeth Crocker.  "The Rural Youth Telecommunications Survey provides quality data on youth market telecom usage and preferences, which can help telcos effectively plan their future service offerings and maximize their appeal to the customer of the future."

"Telcos seeking insight into the needs and preferences of the valuable youth market need look no further than the FRS Rural Youth Survey," said J. Frederick Johnson, FRS board president and executive vice president/general manager of Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative (Rainsville, Ala.).  "There's no better tool for helping develop the product and service offerings that will appeal to the customers of tomorrow." 

The survey received nearly 2,000 responses, the most ever since its inception.  The annual survey examines the telecommunications usage habits of over rural youth, ages 14-23.  Wireless, Internet and video usage habits were explored.

Contact Caitlin Colligan at 703-351-2086

More information on the survey results is available at


The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association is the premier association representing more than 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