At one time, they were on every street corner, now payphones can be a very rare sight in a community.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has launched a public consultation into payphone use in Canada, and is also seeking comments on whether to prohibit phone companies from removing the last payphone in a community until the end of the fact-finding process.
Not surprisingly, payphone use has gone down over the years along with the number of phones. SaskTel currently maintains around 1800 payphones in 300 Saskatchewan communities, down from 5300 phones in 2005.
“It is a declining line of business for us,” said Michelle Englot, the Crown Corporation’s Director of External Communications. “In terms of usage, it’s declining obviously. In 2005 there were 12 million calls, and in 2012, there were 2.8 million.”
Englot says when deciding to take payphones out of service, they look at each one on a case-by-case basis to determine whether to remove it.
“Payphones are highly susceptible to vandalism, and if a phone is continually damaged in a certain location, we may remove the payphone if the usage is also low,” she added. “But we do realize that for some people, payphones are an essential service, and that is always taken into consideration in whether we maintain a payphone in a certain location.”
Englot adds SaskTel follows procedures laid out by the CRTC when removing a payphone, which includes a 60-day public notice on both the phone and in the local newspaper, as well as a 60-day notice to the location provider and municipal government.
The regulator launched the consultation on Tuesday after it denied an application by Bell Canada to increase the cost of local payphone calls from 50 cents to a dollar per call.
SaskTel has charged 50 cents per local payphone call since increasing that rate from 25 cents in 2008, and Englot says it won’t change anytime soon.
“We continually evaluate all prices for all lines of business, including our payphones, but at this point we are not applying for an increase,” she added.
The comment period on the removal of the last payphone in a community is open until August 13, while comments for the fact-finding mission are due October 22. You can participate by visiting the CRTC’s website.