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Cellphones Businesses Communications The Almighty Buck United States

There Are Still 100,000 Pay Phones In the US ( 97

According to the FCC, there are only about 100,000 phone booths left in the United States, and about a fifth of those are in New York. The number has decreased rapidly over the last couple decades as cellphones have been adopted by 95% of Americans. CNN reports of how these remaining pay phones still remain a steady business for some of the 1,100 companies operating them across the country: Pay phone providers reported $286 million in revenue in 2015, according to the most recent FCC report. They can still be profitable, particularly in places where there isn't cell phone or landline coverage, said Tom Keane, president of Pacific Telemanagement Services. Keane's company operates 20,000 pay phones around the country. "We have phones in Yosemite Valley that are extremely busy when there's not snow on the ground," he said. Victor Rollo said he is still making money off his 170 phones in the San Diego area. Rollo declined to say how much, but he believes pay phones are a lifeline for people who don't have other options and are valuable during emergencies or natural disasters. Rollo says he evaluates how many calls are made on the phones every month, how far away they are from each other, and how much his expenses are per month to determine whether to keep them in the ground. Phones in hospitals and along the border, where cell coverage is weak, are some of his most profitable ones.
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There Are Still 100,000 Pay Phones In the US

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  • Its easy to profit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Notabadguy ( 961343 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @06:20PM (#56293959)

    Its easy to profit when your customers are jail and prison inmates with no means of making or receiving calls except on $3.00 per minute pay phones that the prison gets a kickback from.

  • I expect most of their value is in the ads on the side of the phone booth.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @06:21PM (#56293971)

    These booths are for the use of our paying customers.
    Please limit your changing time if others are waiting.

    -- Thank you.

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @06:33PM (#56294035) Homepage Journal
    I use an acoustic coupler modem to a payphone. That is how I avoid being tracked. The only disadvantage is my bittorrent throughput is really low.
    • By the time you finish torrenting a linux distro, there is a new release!
  • I have one (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @07:07PM (#56294225) Homepage Journal

    I have a payphone - it's mounted on my office wall. I don't have the keys for it, and it's not connected, but to me, it's a fine nexus of pleasant memories. Most pertinently, I remember hanging out in a phone booth in rural Pennsylvania (just north of Marshall's creek on then-route 209, now "Milford Road" since the bungled Tock's Island Dam project federal land takings []) with my girlfriend as a teenager, while we waited for the rain to ease up or stop. I've been fond of phone booths, and their pay phones, ever since.

    So when a friend, who works for the local telco/ISP, mentioned they were about to destroy a whole bunch of them, I asked for one, and surprisingly enough, they willingly handed one over.

    And there it hangs, just dripping nostalgia.

    Every once in a while, I get the urge to dig in with power tools and soldering iron and turn it into a working phone, but then I realize I don't actually want anyone to call me on a landline, ever, and the the urge subsides. :)

    • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
      You can buy bluetooth to landline modules []. They connect landline style phones to your cellphone. This would make the phone functional and avoid the landline costs and complexity.

      I just bought something similar for my MIL, since she has trouble using a cellphone and a landline was near impossible to get installed. The one I bought was a panasonic cordless phone that has this functionality built into it.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @07:25PM (#56294307) Journal

    The last hand-cranked telephone was disconnected in the 1980s. [], decades after they were common. IIRC, The last telegram was sent in India less than 10 years ago. There's always a long tail of old tech that had a large installed base.

    • These things can't die soon enough, but with it being the only way certain types of document communications are allowed (certain medical and legal records), we'll be stuck with them for quite awhile longer.

    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      I think that would be the last public cranked phone... Non-profit I work with had a working system for inter-building communications that worked up until about 2010 or so. A bunch of alkaline batteries would last for a couple of years, and the bell was loud enough to hear over the noise of our power plant.

      I've since replaced it with fiber and VOIP, with a loud mechanical ringer in the generator hall... When the power goes out, the two-way radios work just as well, as you don't have to listen to them over th

    • I can still remember a brand new hand-cranked telephone being installed in the family farmhouse in Ontario, 1957.

      • My uncle in a small East European town had an operator phone till the early 2000s. No hand crank, but you picked up the phone and waited for "what number, please?" to make a call.
  • It's a vicious cycle. With early adopters adopting cell phones, fewer pay phones remain in operation. This decline in pay phone availability causes a cell phone to become even more of a necessity for those who need to occasionally make an urgent call* and would previously carry change to deposit in the nearest pay phone. This leads even those who lag behind in adoption of new recurring services to get a cell phone.

    But some people are claiming that a cell phone is still a luxury, even one on a prepaid plan f

    • When hte boom in cell phones started happening, I thought that eventually a pay phone booth would turn into... a phone booth, bring your own phone. Small counter to put stuff on, padded bar to lean on, some way of providing a quick charge, sound proof, perhaps even a faraday cage and a little tiny picocell for your phone to connect to with a guaranteed 5 bars/dots/whatevers (i'm not a radio/electromagnetic radiation guy - would that fry your brain in your head?). Want another 3 minutes of time? Insert ano

    • planning a whole day in advance built discipline in people before easy access to phones was common

      It certainly affected efficiency. I once tried to meet a friend en route to a beach vacation. We were traveling from opposite directions, and we agreed to try to meet around noon, and to do so at the first gas station on the right after crossing a certain bridge. Well, the first gas station on the right was twenty miles down the road. I stopped, filled up, bought a snack, and sat down to wait a little while. After about twenty or thirty minutes, I decided to double back just to be sure he hadn't gone somew

      • Well - amateur radio goes a bit further plus we've got repeaters everywhere. That being said it also is used by local emergency management as they know their current communication system is just one big power failure from being non-operational.
  • One favorite location for ripoff payphones is airports, where even a local call is several dollars.
    • Really? I haven't seen a pay phone in an airport in a long, long time. Where are they? I don't know of any in Atlanta, which is the largest airport I regularly travel through, but I also can't remember any in DCA, LaGuardia, LAX, SFO, Miami, DFW, Denver, or Vegas in the past decade.
      • LaGuardia definitely has payphones. So do Penn and Grand Central stations. Can't recall if JFK or Newark have them right now.
  • In some cases, removed pay phones have been restored by request: Pay phone at ranger station near Big Four Ice Caves is reinstalled [].

    And who remembers terms like COCOT []?

  • To collect on voice prints and numbers called.
  • A couple of years ago I was thinking about how payphones had gone the way of the dodo, then I realized there was one right in front of me. They're in most BART stations. They seem to be less than 20 years old, and in working order, though I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually use one. I can't imagine who's actually paying to maintain them.
  • Was a 6.5536 MHz crystal.


    • by mccalli ( 323026 )
      In the UK the emergency number is 999. For some reason I don't recall, payphones used to put themselves in emergency mode if you dialed 99, meaning the next bit was free.

      Allegedly this would then allow you to dial any number and use it without paying. Including international ones. Allegedly. Not that I would know this for certain you understand, and I certainly wouldn't have used it to keep in touch with a Boston-based university friend during some holidays during the early 90s.
    • Cap'n, is that you. ?
  • I have a Western Electric 1D2 pay phone. It's hooked up in my office. []

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. -- Thomas Edison