Even though Hepner cited several reasons consumers might consider prepaid phone usage, he said the NMRC is not planning to use the survey data to support a political agenda or marketing campaign. "It's phenomenally neutral," Hepner said, "showing just how the American people feel today." He said that the NMRC will use this survey as the first in a series of annual surveys on mobile phone usage.
"There always will be people who use statistics to buoy a position or use it to damage an opponent, but that's not the intent," Hepner said.
He noted that users who move to prepay plans are not getting rid of mobile phones altogether. "The good news is there are options," Hepner said. However, he added, a new era of "penny-pinching is here."
Other data in the survey shows that of those who have discontinued mobile phone service in the past six months, 28% live in households earning $35,000 or less. Of those likely to cut back if the economy gets worse, 44% are age 18-34, 54% live in households earning $35,000 annually or less, and 55% are African-American.
Overall, 80% of those surveyed still own a mobile phone, while 84% of the 18-to-34-year-olds have at least one. Just 68% of those age 65 or older have a mobile phone.
The survey found that 91% of households earning $100,000 or more have mobile phones, while 65% of households earning $35,000 or less have them.
About 17% have a prepaid mobile phone plan, while 84% have a contract-based mobile phone. The overlap is due to individuals with both types of plan.