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BLOOMINGTON - Katie Roth of Bloomington slashed her phone bill in half by cutting the cord on her landline phone and using her cell phone as an all-purpose, everyday, everywhere telephone.

"Prior to getting a cell phone, I paid about $100 to $120 a month. Now, I pay about $45, so I save anywhere from $50 to $60 every month," she said.

She's not alone. For the first time, more people subscribed to cell phones than landline phones in 2004, according to a recent report by the Federal Communications Commission.

"Here at Verizon we have seen modest decreases in landline usage over the last few years. While landline usage has decreased - our wireless numbers are up and our DSL (internet) numbers are up," said Karen Boswell, a spokeswoman for Verizon in Bloomington.

"Cell phone usage has just been record setting for quite some time," she added.

According to the FCC, cell-phone usage has just a slight edge over landline usage. It's nearly 50-50. In 2004, 181.1 million people subscribed to a cell-phone service, a 15 percent increase from the previous year. Subscription numbers for landline usage, however, remained fairly steady at 178 million.

The trend to switch from landlines to cell phones has forced telephone companies to bundle products and offer discounts to make landlines more attractive.

At Verizon, for example, customers can't get internet access without connecting to a landline phone.

The company also offers discounts, Boswell said

Still, the savings have persuaded Roth, 25, and others to make the switch.

The U.S. Army took Roth around the country, making long-distance calls home too expensive with a landline, so she ditched it. Since moving back to Central Illinois to attend school at Heartland Community College, Roth hasn't found a reason to hook a landline up again.

"It's just cheaper to have a cell phone," she said. "Weekends and nights are free, so it's easier to call home on the weekends and stuff."

Cost is only one factor. Cell phones also have a much broader range of use than a landline telephone.

People use cell phones to send email, view news headlines, get weather information, check stock quotes and store contact information, said Eric Hautala, Central Illinois sales manager for U.S. Cellular.

"It's not just for voice anymore," he said.

While it's not too common, some businesses are even dropping landline usage for cell phones, Hautala said.

"As long as you have that cell phone, you're accessible anywhere. In business, missing that one call can be very costly," he said.

Still, most businesses maintain landline phones because they have fax lines, he said. The trend is more common among individuals, particularly young people, he said.

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