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AT&T To Decommission Pay Phones 470

Posted by Zonk
from the death-by-cell-phone dept.
oahazmatt writes "According to MarketWatch, AT&T said that its pay phones will be phased out over the next year. A company spokeswoman declined to say how much revenue its pay-phone business generated, but the number is small and declining. 'The first public pay-telephone station was set up in 1878, just two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the talking device. The first coin-operated pay phone was installed in Hartford, Conn., in 1889. For decades after the pay phone's invention, many Americans relied on them because of the expense and difficulty in obtaining reliable home service. Only after World War II did the telephone become a household necessity.'"
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AT&T To Decommission Pay Phones

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  • Just great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:24PM (#21574643)
    Now where is Superman supposed to change?
  • by in2mind (988476) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:27PM (#21574693) Homepage
    ..Because there are cellphone everywhere? But if you find yourself without cellphone in a situation,would some stranger lend you his for a call you want to make?

    Oh its about profit...ok..
    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:29PM (#21574737) Homepage
      And what about those who either choose not to have a cellphone, or can't afford one? Not everyone is willing to dedicate themselves to multi-year plans, or spend a not-insignificant number of dollars on a handset so they can pay (exhorbitantly) as they go.
      • Do plans in the states really need to be multi-year? Here in Canada, you generally only have to sign up for a long term contract if you want a handset discount. With the rate that people replace them, I'm sure it couldn't be that hard to buy a cheap used phone (say $30 or less) and activate it without a long term contract.

        Still sucks that payphones are going. I needed to use one last night, and I'm glad it was there. Though, they seem to have raised the cost from 25 cents to 50 cents, which is stupid.
      • by Average (648) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:39PM (#21574903)
        In the US, at least, a new handset for prepaid (Tracfone) goes for $15 plus sales tax. You can get a year's worth of operation for $80 (if you buy a $20 card quarterly) or $100 (for more minutes than that). Minutes that you use are much cheaper than the 50 cents + long distance for a payphone call.

        Plus, any cellphone can call 911, activated or not. Lots of working ones for $3.99 with a charger at my local Goodwill.

        Not saying it's a good deal, or that I can't understand not wanting to bother with one. But, they aren't that expensive in this country.

        Canada on the other hand doesn't have anything nearly as affordable as Tracfone (or I would get one for use when I'm traveling there).
      • by michrech (468134) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:50PM (#21575099)
        Give me a break. You can (at least in the area of the US in which I reside) walk into virtually any store and walk out with a contractless cell phone, quite cheaply. It shouldn't matter *too* much if the per-minute charges are somewhat high as, if your "example" would be correct, they don't want it in the first place, there-by meaning they'd hardly be using it as it is.

        Hell, just looking at AT&T's web site (side note: MAN I hate this company -- if they do purchase DishNetwork, I'm switching to DirecTV...), you can get a damned "goPhone" for a whopping $10(!) and there are two access plans. Either an access plan that is $1 per day (you ONLY get charged the "access fee" of $1 on a day that you actually make a call) + 10 cents per minute, OR, a fee where the minutes are 25 cents.

        By MY calculations, that does not qualify as "not-insignificant number of dollars on a handset", nor does it qualify for "they can pay (exorbitantly) as they go."

        Next time, you might actually, ohh, I dunno, try backing up your statements with some facts? Wait.. I forgot. This is slashdot.

        Just because you hate the cell phone companies (the only thing I can assume from your attitude) doesn't mean that they are out to lock you into multi-year expensive plans in an effort to not provide you adequate service and empty your wallet. It just means you haven't done your homework. Hell, it took me 2 minutes to find AT&T's rates. I'm sure other carriers have pricing similar (T-Mobile probably being one of the better carriers).

        I'm really not trying to bait you into a flamewar, nor am I trying to be a troll. There are plenty of reasons to hate the telephone companies, so why make up more?

        And what about those who either choose not to have a cellphone, or can't afford one? Not everyone is willing to dedicate themselves to multi-year plans, or spend a not-insignificant number of dollars on a handset so they can pay (exhorbitantly) as they go.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          All of those plans cost more than a quarter.
      • I don't know how it is in the US, but in Finland cell phone connections are dirt cheap. If you use your phone seldomly or only for emergencies, it costs virtually nothing. I think my last bill was around 5 euros or something ($7). There's a dizzying amount of different plans and packages, some of which allow you to talk free of charge under certain conditions, or give you tons of free air time.
      • Or those... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gillbates (106458)

        Who choose not to have a cellphone because they:

        1. Don't like the ability of the government to track their whereabouts, or
        2. Don't want to enable the government to surrepititiously monitor their conversations, even when they're not talking on the phone.
        3. Don't feel like being part of the my-employer/wife/etc-has-me-on-a-leash culture.

        I only reluctantly got a cellphone a few years ago. AFAIC, they're as close to a travesty as one can get; they've got more computing power than a PC did a decade ago, but are

      • by merreborn (853723)

        Not everyone is willing to dedicate themselves to multi-year plans, or spend a not-insignificant number of dollars on a handset so they can pay (exhorbitantly) as they go.

        I just signed up for AT&T's pay-as-you-go plan. I had to pay $10 for the phone. That was it.
        The minutes you buy expire after a month or so usually, but if you drop $100 on minutes (at either $0.25/min or $1/day + $0.10/min), they don't expire for a year.

        On my last plan, I was paying Sprint $50/month, and using less than 50 minutes a

      • Not everyone is willing to dedicate themselves to multi-year plans, or spend a not-insignificant number of dollars on a handset so they can pay (exhorbitantly) as they go.

        Not that I advocate Wal-Hell for anything, but $19.99 will get you a pre-paid phone that costs less than a pay phone ($.12/minute, vs. $.35) to operate.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ajs (35943)

        And what about those who either choose not to have a cellphone, or can't afford one?

        What about them?

        I don't mean to sound harsh, but honestly this is just not one of the phone company's concerns. They're a business, not the corner phone maintenance division of your city government. If you want a phone on every corner, lobby your local government to put one there, and be ready to pay for it with your taxes. Public phones just don't make enough money to cover their costs anymore.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gauauu (649169)
        And what about those who either choose not to have a cellphone, or can't afford one? Not everyone is willing to dedicate themselves to multi-year plans, or spend a not-insignificant number of dollars on a handset so they can pay (exhorbitantly) as they go.

        The answer is: sorry, tough luck. AT&T has no duty to you to provide these pay phones for you. If they stop being profitable, they stop existing. They don't care about whether you are willing to dedicate yourself to a multi-year plan.

        I'm not saying
    • by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:37PM (#21574859) Homepage

      Oh its about profit...ok..
      Well... yes, yes it is. AT&T are a business, profit is their general goal.

      Even if someone won't lend you a cellphone in case you run off with it, just go into a building and ask if you can use their landline. Most people are pretty reasonable. OK... some people are pretty reasonable. But even if you had to try two or three places it's hardly a big deal for this life-and-death call you just have to make, right?

      That is, unless you find yourself alone without a cellphone in the middle of nowhere. But then again there probably wouldn't be a pay phone there anyway.
      • by in2mind (988476) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @02:03PM (#21575333) Homepage

        Even if someone won't lend you a cellphone in case you run off with it, just go into a building and ask if you can use their landline.
        Its not about running away with their phone..Its about a call to a person about whom the owner has no idea & in case any trouble,the phone owner will be the first to face it.

        just go into a building and ask if you can use their landline. Most people are pretty reasonable. OK... some people are pretty reasonable. But even if you had to try two or three places it's hardly a big deal for this life-and-death call you just have to make, right?
        Thats when assuming there are always buildings around you, open & welcoming you at Night anywhere!
    • by i.r.id10t (595143)
      Of course, replace phone booths wiht a nice soundproof booth that has a quick charger, and maybe a reception booster of some sort, etc. and a seat. Still pay for booth time, but you get a quick charge of your cell battery and better reception, as well as some privacy and the ability to hear your conversation....
      • Of course, replace phone booths wiht a nice soundproof booth that has a quick charger, and maybe a reception booster of some sort, etc. and a seat. Still pay for booth time, but you get a quick charge of your cell battery and better reception, as well as some privacy and the ability to hear your conversation....

        As well as peace and quiet for everyone else who would rather not know anything about your personal life.
    • Actually, I find it easier to find a stranger to bum a call off of than to find a pay phone to use. Add this to the list of things I'll have to explain to my kid when she's older.
  • We just had a "buggy whip" moment. And it's only accelerating.

    Welcome to the singularity.
    • by brunes69 (86786)
      Either you have no idea what "the singularity" actually refers to specifically, or you are painting with brush strokes about 100 miles wide.
      • When I lead with a Lebowski quote, are you really expecting deep thought?

        That said, this is a momentous, well, moment. (BTW, that's an indirect Austin Powers reference.)

        (Thanks for killing the joke.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:27PM (#21574697)
    Oh look, a violent crime. Better go to the nearest payphone and report it so I don't get roped in to the case just 'cos I'm concerned about someone being beaten to a pulp.

    Oh, no payphone.
    • by vhold (175219) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:31PM (#21574771)
      This was my first thought as well. Case in point: A friend of mine used a pay phone to report a car being broken into, and when they asked for his name he just said "Nope" and hung up. The cops arrived shortly thereafter and caught the thief in the act. He would not have made that call on his phone.
      • +1 GP (Score:3, Insightful)

        by brunes69 (86786)
        Every year that passes it gets more and more difficult to communicate without being monitored.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hobo sapiens (893427)
          What, you think it's impossible for "them" to put cameras up near pay phones? In other words, if someone wants to monitor you, it's already a done deal. Don't kid yourself into thinking that someone cannot find out who used a payphone to make a certain call. With enough resources (and I'd bet AT&T and the NSA have it) you cannot be anonymous. Do you really think those payphones at airports aren't monitored closely?

          I dunno, I think getting rid of payphones isn't so bad. If there's a market for them,
          • by brunes69 (86786)
            And if I am wearing a mask and gloves when I use said pay phone?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            What, you think it's impossible for "them" to put cameras up near pay phones? In other words, if someone wants to monitor you, it's already a done deal. Don't kid yourself into thinking that someone cannot find out who used a payphone to make a certain call. With enough resources (and I'd bet AT&T and the NSA have it) you cannot be anonymous. Do you really think those payphones at airports aren't monitored closely?

            The real question:

            Is my using a pay phone really worth the time and expense for At&T

    • Pay phones are still present. AT&T just won't be in charge of them. Verizon still has quite a few of them.
    • by giminy (94188)
      Yah, I would think that the FCC/FTC/some oversight body would make payphones a requirement for operating telephones in the US? They should be looking out for the public's best interest. It seems like payphones have a great public benefit, especially for the poor.

      I wonder what it would take to start a private payphone business (using AT&T/Verizon service, and putting your own payphones into the wild). I can't see payphones as being very profitable...I wonder if Congress would ever consider funding suc
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kizzle (555439)
        Actually there are tons of third party pay phone providers out there. They're called cocots. They're easy to spot because they have odd business names on them and not Verizon/ATT/Sprint/ect.

        So while ATT may be pulling out their pay phones, others will still exist.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by petermgreen (876956)
        I'm going to use british prices because that is what I am familiar with, things may be a bit different in the US but I doubt it will be that significant.

        First there is the cost of the payphones themselves. Afaict this is about £150 or so for a basic payphone. More than double that if you want something moderately vandal resistant.

        If you use POTs there is the cost of the line and if you use phones that work on the pay to start speaking method (many cheap end ones do) the cost of calls where the person
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jayveekay (735967)
      So you see someone getting violently attacked. If your number one concern is to help the victim ASAP, then I would think that given the choice between A) whipping out your cellphone and dialing 911 to summon help, or B) looking for a payphone, running to it, (possibly asking whoever is using phone to hang up for an emergency), and dialing 911, I would think that you would choose option A.

      Why would you be concerned about possibly getting "roped into the case" when someone's life is in jeopardy?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rubycodez (864176)
        you've never lived in a big city where armed gangs spray the houses of witnesses with bullets, I take it
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jayveekay (735967)
          If you're afraid of an armed gang showing up at your house sometime in the distant future during a trial, then I don't think you're a candidate for showing the courage to act against the armed gang that is 100 feet away beating someone up right now. I think that you're far more likely to mind your own business entirely, and rationalize the victim of the violence as probably just another thug or prostitute getting what he/she deserves.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          you've never lived in a big city where armed gangs spray the houses of witnesses with bullets, I take it
          I live in Detroit and I've never heard of such a thing here. Maybe New Orleans...
    • by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @03:14PM (#21576575)
      If you're that concerned, carry a random cell phone with no service activated. By national law, cell carriers have to accept incoming 911 calls even from phones with no active service plan.
  • not a surprise (Score:3, Interesting)

    by networkBoy (774728) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:28PM (#21574727) Homepage Journal
    Death of an era, really.
    As TFA says though, almost anyone and everyone has a wireless handset. I recent switched to a PP cell myself.
    That's the real key... Pay phones were anonymous, with Pre-paid you can pay cas for the phone ans sim, using bogus info where needed. You can still be invisible.
    -nB
  • Hang on... (Score:4, Informative)

    by greyworld (802114) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:28PM (#21574729) Journal
    Bell did not invent the telephone. It was Antonio Meucci!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by the_humeister (922869)
      Riiight... and next you're going to tell me that Christopher Columbus wasn't the first person to discover the Americas, that there's a NEW Mexico, that there's no Santa Claus...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sm62704 (957197)

      The history of the invention of the telephone is a confusing claim and counterclaim, further worsened by the lawsuits which hoped to resolve the patent claims of individuals. It is important to note that there is no one "inventor of the telephone", though Alexander Graham Bell is often credited as such, and the Italian Antonio Meucci was recognized by US Congress on 11th June 2002 for his contributions to inventing a telephone. The modern telephone is the result of work done by many people, all worthy of re

  • by NetDanzr (619387) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:29PM (#21574733)
    When I moved to Atlanta in summer of 2004, it was the lack of pay phones in Midtown that finally made me purchase a cell phone. Had there been easily accessible pay phones in the city, I would most likely still rely on them. I wonder whether we'll see a significant increase in cell phone subscription now, or whether there aren't enough crazy luddites like me left anymore.
    • by gardyloo (512791)

      When I moved to Atlanta in summer of 2004, it was the lack of pay phones in Midtown that finally made me purchase a cell phone. [...] I wonder whether we'll see a significant increase in cell phone subscription now, or whether there aren't enough crazy luddites like me left anymore.

      You mean you were a crazy luddite ~3 years ago. It's a lot more difficult now, believe me. It's almost a personal hair-shirt thing by this point. And yet people still say to me, "You don't have a cell phone? You're so lucky!".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:30PM (#21574743)
    keep the phone add dsl to the line and a wifi connection - good to go.
  • by cyberworm (710231) <cyberwormNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:30PM (#21574753) Homepage
    It's about phreaking time.
  • I find that most of the pay phone I've seen in and around my area, are either defaced with either gum or other crap, missing the handset all together, or broken (with the phone intact). With the advent of cells phones, becoming a necessity these days, do pay phones really much matter? I think not.
  • by mgoren (73073) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:31PM (#21574769)
    At least according to AT&T, the phones aren't just going to disappear. What the article says is that AT&T is getting out of the pay phone business, turning some or all of their phones over to independent operators.
    • At least according to AT&T, the phones aren't just going to disappear. What the article says is that AT&T is getting out of the pay phone business, turning some or all of their phones over to independent operators.

      The phones are feasable for them and they would rather concentrate on where the money is. Nothing is stopping your local convenience store from installing one, and the advantage there is that at least you have greater chances of having them work, since they are less likely to defaced or va
    • by MyNymWasTaken (879908) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @03:15PM (#21576589)
      What are you doing actually reading, and comprehending, the article?

      This. Is. Slashdot!
  • Or is it because it is harder for them to eagerly hand over the identities of the callers to the concerned and not-so-concerned officials?
  • by MSBob (307239) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:35PM (#21574823)
    The British Telecom phone booths look really nice not to mention all the handy hooker ads inside :-)
  • Profit != Bad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by p0tat03 (985078) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:37PM (#21574851)

    People are treating ATT like the scum of the Earth here, which they may be in their mobile business, but I can't see why expecting to break even is such an evil goal.

    Pay phones here in Canada are up to $1 a call now, ridiculous, when it was a quarter merely a few years before. The downturn in usage means increased cost per call for the few people that still use them, which drives a cycle that forces everyone to get some sort of cell phone.

    Both my brother (an academic) and my mother have pay-as-you-go plans, which cost them about $120 a year. That's really not too bad, considering they're light users. They enjoy the convenience of a cell phone, and also the security from being able to call emergency services wherever they may be, as opposed to having to locate the nearest (dwindling number) payphones.

    I simply do not see pay phones as having any further use to our society. They were important pieces of technology from a bygone era, that's all.

  • ...they muted the speaker so the red box wouldn't work anymore.
  • Presumably (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:48PM (#21575055)
    One could buy all the payphones, stick a wireless access point in them and an ADSL port on the other end of the line.

    Hmmmm... With the dollar going off the cliff I might just be able to afford it.
     
  • Interesting (Score:3, Informative)

    by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <(sherwin) (at) (amiran.us)> on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:53PM (#21575159) Homepage Journal
    AT&T continues to maintain it's Telephone Lease Program, but no longer maintains pay phones.

    How absurd. Did I mention I hate those bastards? I decided to give them a try, especially given their "30-day money back guarantee". I'd heard they had improved, they were a new company, my slashdot posting history aside. I found out two days later that I would be getting the same, standard 6/768 DSL they give everyone, not some new 8meg/2meg package the sales rep sold me on.

    Cancelled immediately. AT&T issued a bill for $100. Settled for $50. For 3 days of service, even with a "money back guarantee".

    So much for giving them a second chance. I'll never, ever, ever, ever do business with AT&T again. For any reason. To the end of my days. Those bastards will never, ever change.
  • doesn't have the same ring as "this phone boot reserved for Clark Kent".
  • by sirgoran (221190)
    What about all those movie story lines where they show them on a pay-phone or in a phone booth?
    Talk about an end of an era!
    It was bad enough when Superman lost his changing room, but now to have lost them all together...
    Now where are people going to steal phone book pages from?!

    It truly is a sad day indeed.

    -Goran
  • by jpellino (202698) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @02:03PM (#21575341)
    What's 2600 supposed to put on their back cover now?

  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @04:19PM (#21577601) Journal
    AT&T plans to help find alternative payphone operators for people who need them [betanews.com]. The AT&T decision only applies to 13 states serviced by AT&T (SBC) payphones [cellular-news.com]. AT&T only operates about 65,000 of the 1 million payphones in the US [computerworld.com], while Verizon operates about 225,000. AT&T plans to sell as many of the phones and lines to independent operators as they can [msn.com]. They expect the majority of the phones to be bought by someone [iht.com]. They even expect to continue selling wholesale payphone service to payphone owners [marketwatch.com].

    It sounds to me they just decided to let someone else field the equipment. There's a lot of exaggeration around this story, but the facts are all over the web. Death of the payphone, indeed. This reaction is kind of like saying IBM getting out of the consumer laptop and desktop PC market was the end of the Windows computer.

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