If you receive a call from someone in South Dakota, it is much more likely to be coming from a landline than a call from North Dakota.
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control survey released last week ranked the states with the highest - and lowest - percentages of adults who use cellphones only. North Dakota ranked near the top, with 32.3 percent of adults relying on cellphones only, while South Dakota rate was only 15.6 percent, putting it among the bottom six states.
South Dakota was the only state outside of the East in that bottom six.
What gives? Both states look alike politically, economically, geographically.
One theory posited that students, the group most likely to ditch landlines, could be the difference. More than 45,000 students were enrolled in North Dakota's 11 colleges and universities this semester, while South Dakota had 36,000-plus enrolled in its six higher education institutions during the fall semester.
South Dakota has a greater number of residents - 818,000 to North Dakota's roughly 645,000 - but the 2010 survey showed our population is aging.
Tony Clark, chairman of the North Dakota public service commission, guessed that the data might be wrong.
Some might think, "What does it matter what phone I use?" Here are two good reasons to care:
As South Dakota - and Brown County in particular - tries to recruit talent to fill jobs, we expect to attract folks who are used to great cell service. Will reception be a deal breaker for out-of-towners? It might be. In that case, the state needs to be sure that the low cellphone usage found in this survey is a matter of choice, rather than necessity.
Secondly, the world is moving to digital delivery. We've seen this recently with changes to the Extension Service, now recommending folks use online resources rather than the traditional Extension educator.
Smartphones are not just phones; in many cases, they are computers first and foremost, to check email and text messages, yes, but also to video conference, take notes, record and edit video (and sometimes broadcast live). Cellphones, feature phones and smartphones are becoming an essential learning and living tool.
The changeover this week for South Dakota Alltel customers to AT&T has not been without trouble, as we've reported today. Some rural areas are finding that their connectivity isn't as strong with their new phone provider.
Downtown Aberdeen - and other areas around town - should be commended for their efforts to connect us with free public Wi-Fi.
Connectivity has to be a priority for the state to remain competitive and not find our residents left behind in changing technology, services and education.