Tampa Landlines Disappear From Homes

TAMPA – Rickey Clarke is one of the thousands of Tampa residents who have abandoned traditional landline telephones in favor of their cellphones.

“Since I graduated from college and moved back to Tampa, I’ve lived in either a condo or a house. And in both situations, I haven’t had a landline,” said Clarke, 33. “In the days of cellphones, the need for a landline isn’t there.”

What’s a convenience for Clarke has become a drain on the city, which taxes telephones and television service to finance city operations.

Income from the city’s communication services tax — a 5.22 percent levy on wired phones, wireless phones, cable and satellite TV — peaked at nearly $30 million in 2009. It has plummeted 25 percent since then and continues to drop as a direct result of people changing the way they communicate by:

Switching to services that handle phone calls and TV over the Internet, which the city can’t tax.

Buying prepaid cellphones, which incur sales tax but not the communication tax.

Disconnecting their houses from the traditional phone system, either for economic or technological reasons.

“I think economics and technology are woven together,” said Bob Elek, spokesman for Verizon’s Florida operations. “For certain, some people have dropped their landline out of economic necessity. But if the alternative technology was not there, they wouldn’t do so.”

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