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O.C. Dialing for Dollars

May 12, 1997

Cell phones, we got cell phones.

And we got cell phone bills--the highest in the U.S., according to a San Diego data collection firm.

In a national survey of consumers, Equifax National Decision Systems asked people if they own cell phones and, if so, how much they spend each month on cellular calls.

Orange County came out on top of the list, with the average monthly cellular phone bill in 1996 hitting $37.08. Next was San Jose, where the monthly bill averaged $36.82.

There wasn't really much of a spread in Equifax's top 10 list: the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metro area of Washington was 10th with an average monthly cellular bill of $34.62.

But there was one surprise. While nine of the top 10 regions were high-income, high-tech business centers, No. 7 was Iowa City, Iowa.

An Equifax spokeswoman guessed that cell phone users there who run up $35 monthly bills must be "rich farmers" who use their phones to stay in touch while working the fields.

But Shelby Kraus, spokeswoman for the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, says there's a better explanation. "The University of Iowa Hospital and clinics are here and we're second in the U.S. in specialty health care," Kraus said, "so we have a lot of doctors and professors from all over the world, and they use cell phones a lot."

John O'Dell can be reached at (714) 966-5831 and at

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