The data on telephones were obtained from Housing Question 8g in the 2012 American Community Survey. The question was asked at occupied housing units.
The question asked whether telephone service was available in the house, apartment, or mobile home. A telephone must be in working order and service available in the house, apartment, or mobile home that allows the respondent to both make and receive calls. Households whose service has been discontinued for nonpayment or other reasons are not counted as having telephone service available.
The availability of telephone service provides information on the isolation of households. These data help assess the level of communication access amongst elderly and low-income households. The data also serve to aid in the development of emergency telephone, medical, or crime prevention services.
For the 1996-1998 American Community Survey, the question asked whether there was a telephone in the house or apartment. A telephone must be inside the house or apartment for the unit to be classified as having a telephone. Units where the respondent used a telephone located inside the building, but not in the respondent's living quarters, were classified as having no telephone. In 1999, the words "or mobile home" were added question to be more inclusive of the structure type. In 2004, instructions that accompanied the ACS mail questionnaire advised respondents that if the household members used cell phones to answer that the house, apartment, or mobile home had telephone service. Starting in 2008, the structure of the question changed and combined telephone service availability with plumbing facilities and kitchen facilities into one question to ask, "Does this house, apartment, or mobile home have -" and provided the respondent with a "Yes" or "No" checkbox for each component needed for complete facilities. In 2008 the instruction "Include cell phones"
Limitation of the Data
The Census Bureau tested the changes introduced to the 2008 version of the telephone service available question in the 2006 ACS Content Test. The results of this testing show that the changes may introduce an inconsistency in the data produced for this question as observed from the years 2007 to 2008; see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Facilities" on the ACS website (http://www.census.gov/acs
Caution should be used when comparing American Community Survey data on telephone service availability from the years 2008 and after with both pre-2008 ACS and Census 2000 data. Changes made to the telephone service availability question between the 2007 and 2008 ACS involving the structure of the question as well as the introduction of an instruction to include cell phones resulted in an inconsistency in the ACS data. This inconsistency in the data was most noticeable as an increase in the number of respondents answering "Yes" to the question.