Amid the threat of tough economic times, cell phones and internet access have become almost like heat and water for consumers: They are among the last monthly expenses that households are willing to cut from their budgets during a recession, reports the Globe and Mail of Toronto. A survey conducted last week in Canada and the U.S. suggests that if consumers are forced to reduce spending, they will look almost everywhere else in their household budgets before they unplug their computer or switch off their BlackBerry. "Many consumers, with minor exceptions, view these as essential utilities, like water or electricity," says the report, which was compiled from interviews with 800 consumers. "People were saying, ‘It’s not going to happen–you would have to pry it out of my hands,’ that kind of language," said Kaan Yigit, head of Solutions Research Group, the Toronto firm that produced the report. The acknowledgment of these so-called "new essentials" plays into the hands of the cable and telecom companies, since they rely heavily on monthly subscribers for revenue and can bundle the services together. However, those same companies have been eyeing this downturn with trepidation, since it will be the first to really test whether budget-conscious consumers think web access and cell phones are a luxury or a necessity–unlike the downturn that followed the dot-com crash in 2001, when those products were still in far fewer households. This time, the casualties of belt-tightening will come elsewhere, with the most likely victims expected to be concert tickets and sporting events, according to the report. Movie tickets were the second most-mentioned target for cuts, with DVD purchases third…

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