America's shrinking pay phone population suffered another blow Monday, when AT&T Inc. announced plans to turn loose its herd of 65,000.The DMN article also included a survey that asked when the last time was that you'd used a pay phone, and--like many, I'm sure--I had no clue. I've owned a cell phone since 1995, and even the first one--which was so bulky that it didn't fit comfortably in my pocket--pretty much replaced the pay phone for me from day one. Once I got long distance added to my cell service, it not only rendered the pay phone useless on any occasion, but it also pretty much sounded the death knell for long distance service at home (which still exists, but only on an emergency, as-needed basis). I realize that there must be a non-cell-using population who relies on pay phones, but you hardly ever see one anymore.
As recently as 1998, the U.S. supported 2.6 million pay phones, but with cellphones reducing pay phone use and vandals preying on units in vulnerable locations, pay phone numbers have plummeted to just 1 million today.
If independent pay phone operators do not take over the phones that AT&T abandons, service may decline further in U.S. prisons and across the 13-state footprint where Southwestern Bell once provided telephone service.
AT&T executives voice cautious optimism that most phones will survive the upheaval, which will take place over the next year or so.
When was the last time you used a pay phone?