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Is It Time To Commit To Ongoing Payphone Availability? 267

jenningsthecat writes "Public payphones seem headed the way of the dinosaur, as noted here on Slashdot 10 years ago, and again by the CBC earlier this year. Reasons typically cited for their demise are falling usage, (thanks to the ubiquitous cell phone), and rising maintenance costs. But during the recent disaster in NYC caused by Hurricane Sandy public payphones proved their worth, allowing people to stay in contact in spite of the widespread loss of both cellular service and the electricity required to charge mobile devices. In light of this news, at least one Canadian news outlet is questioning the wisdom of scrapping payphones. Should we in North America make sure that public pay phones will always be widely available? (After all, it's not as though they don't have additional value-added uses). And, should their continued existence be dependent on corporations whose primary duty is to their shareholders, rather than to the average citizen?"
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Is It Time To Commit To Ongoing Payphone Availability?

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  • Already too late. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:55PM (#41883427)

    I couldn't tell you where ANY pay phones around here are. Heck, where you do see a pay phone, it's usually in a neighborhood where you're likely to get mugged or shot if you tried to use it anyway.

  • by skids ( 119237 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:00PM (#41883525) Homepage

    That's not necessarily true. Just because VoIP is a kludge compared to TDM or cell switched services, does not mean that the backbone equipment to do it will not be protected by the same backup systems as TDM or cell switches.

    However, the tendency not to use POTS copper on new installs would mean that new payphone rollouts would likely not be as protected, not being powered by the POTS lines but rather by a site-local power source, which could even be just grid. So what you say may happen for newer last mile setups, but existing POTS lines would likely be tied to a reliable backbone, VoIP or not.

  • by jd2112 ( 1535857 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @02:52PM (#41884457)

    What exactly is wrong with a tax to pay for stuff like this?

    This is exactly the sort of thing government is for.

    Not according to some of the conservatives I know, they say that the federal government shouldn't be involved in disaster relief. They also criticize Obama for not doing enough in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy.

  • by s0nicfreak ( 615390 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @03:56PM (#41885433) Journal
    There's no reason to use payphones for that. How about a phone that only calls the police/ambulance/fire truck, ala what use to be on police boxes? Once my car broke down completely on a remote highway during a cross-country trip, in the middle of the night. Fortunately I had a cellphone, but I didn't know anyone anywhere near there, I didn't know how to find a tow truck, I didn't know anything. So I called 911 and they said a police car was already on the way. How they saw me there, I have no idea; I hadn't seen anyone else on the highway. But the police got there and then they looked at the situation, and called the appropriate people, and drove me to a motel. If you break down, but you are near Uncle Bob's house, if you can get to an "emergency phone," explain the situation and ask them to call Uncle Bob, they will call Uncle Bob for you. If Uncle Bob can't help and you're just calling to tell him you're okay, you didn't really need to do that. So obviously these emergency boxes would have to come with a campaign for appropriate use, but payphones needed that already (the payphone is not a urinal, etc.)
  • by Forever Wondering ( 2506940 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @07:08PM (#41887661)

    Sounds like a reasonable justification to me. You called and had them replace the copper with fiber so you could get internet faster, then you want them to put the copper back? It's not economically justifiable.

    It's usually not justifiable to remove the copper at all. NYC has dead copper in the same conduits as the fiber, some dating back to the 1800's [with paper insulation]. With the price of copper these days, that may change in the future.

    At some point in transitioning, they'll have also pulled the copper distribution system from the CO to your neighborhood and put in fiber, so it would be a really large expense to run a copper pair all the way just for you.

    It may not go all the way to the CO but only to the local pedestal [where fiber-to-the-curb becomes copper].

    Maybe the mistake was going with the telco for VoIP when there are other providers who aren't pseudo-monopolies and don't need to pull your old copper lines?

    In CA, [not shilling] is running fiber-to-the-home in some municipalities. They are [probably] just adding fiber in parallel because the copper is actually owned by AT&T.

    Actually, copper ownership is a bit murky. IIRC, when AT&T wired much of America in the late 1950's, it did so under a consent degree, paid for with U.S. tax dollars, so the copper could be considered a publicly owned resource.

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