The CRTC Orders Bell Not to Increase the Price of a Payphone Call
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The CRTC Orders Bell Not to Increase the Price of a Payphone Call

The price of a coin-op phone call will remain the same, for now.

Photo by JohnApix, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool

Photo by JohnApix, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Some would argue that the very concept of public payphones is obsolete, but they’re still a hot topic at the CRTC. Today, the communications regulator announced that it’s rejecting a request from Bell for permission to hike the cash price of a local call from 50 cents to as much as a dollar.

Bell made the request early last year. The company’s reasoning was that the freedom to experiment with price increases would help it refit its phones to accept the new, steel loonies issued by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2012, and would help slow the removal of unprofitable phones.

There’s data to support the notion that payphones are disappearing. A CRTC report shows the total number of payphones operated by large carriers in Canada steadily decreasing over the years, from more than 90,000 in 2008 to around 70,000 in 2011. Over the same period of time, the number of Canadian wireless subscribers has swelled to more than 27 million.

At this rate, in a few years many—if not most—Canadians will have cell phones practically welded to their hands at birth, and payphones will no longer be making enough money to sustain themselves. But the CRTC apparently isn’t planning on leaving coin-op communication for dead. In tandem with its denial of Bell’s price-hike request, the regulator is launching a public consultation on payphone use. According to a press release, this exercise will help the CRTC develop “a clearer picture of how payphones are being used and by whom.”

Anyone interested in giving feedback can do it by mail, by fax, or online. (But not by payphone.)

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