CRTC Wants Telecoms to Notify Communities Before Last Payphones are Removed

The CRTC initiated a fact-finding mission on the role of payphones in Canada back in the summer of 2013. That process has concluded and today the Commission has released its findings.

According to their research, only 32% of Canadians reported to have used a payphone once in a one year period, compared to 50% back in 2004, when users reported more occasional use.

The CRTC says it “recognizes that payphones are important in society because of their accessibility, their one-time per-use cost and unlimited time for local and toll-free calls.”

The report has concluded that “all incumbent telephone companies be obligated to notify communities affected, including municipalities and First Nations, before removing the last public telephone.” Also, these telcos would have to alert communities before removing a public payphone where wireless coverages is unavailable.

Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC, said in a statement:

“Although payphones are no longer used as much as in the past, they continue to play an important role in society and serve the public interest. For this reason, we want to make sure that Canadians are notified when certain payphones are removed in their communities, and that they have the opportunity to share their concerns with local authorities. These authorities will be empowered to respond to the needs of their communities.”

According to the The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the Consumer’s Association of Canada, and the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organization of British Columbia (PIAC et al.), payphones are crucial to those with lower incomes and unable to afford a cellphone. Moreover, payphones similarly are handy in regions where sporadic wireless services exists.

Bell Canada’s data revealed payphone call volumes have decreased on average of 19% from 2008 to 2013 in Quebec and Ontario, while payphone numbers only decreased 5% on average during the same period; this suggests payphone call volumes are dropping independently of removal of payphones in specific areas. In 2013, the CRTC denied Bell’s proposal to increase payphone charges from $1 to $2.

What do you think? Should payphones stick around? When was the last time you used one?