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Is It Time To Commit To Ongoing Payphone Availability?

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the who-you-gonna-call? dept.

Businesses 267

jenningsthecat writes "Public payphones seem headed the way of the dinosaur, as noted here on Slashdot 10 years ago, and again by the CBC earlier this year. Reasons typically cited for their demise are falling usage, (thanks to the ubiquitous cell phone), and rising maintenance costs. But during the recent disaster in NYC caused by Hurricane Sandy public payphones proved their worth, allowing people to stay in contact in spite of the widespread loss of both cellular service and the electricity required to charge mobile devices. In light of this news, at least one Canadian news outlet is questioning the wisdom of scrapping payphones. Should we in North America make sure that public pay phones will always be widely available? (After all, it's not as though they don't have additional value-added uses). And, should their continued existence be dependent on corporations whose primary duty is to their shareholders, rather than to the average citizen?"

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One good reason for a landline (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883083)

This is one good reason why a landline (not VOIP) is still good to keep around if you can get it for less than $10 a month. A lot more reliable during diasters than your cellphone (towers down, your battery dead).

Re:One good reason for a landline (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883325)

Except the PSTN is increasingly moving to VoIP for its backbone, so within a few years that landline'll be just as dead as that VoIP phone.

Re:One good reason for a landline (3, Interesting)

skids (119237) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883525)

That's not necessarily true. Just because VoIP is a kludge compared to TDM or cell switched services, does not mean that the backbone equipment to do it will not be protected by the same backup systems as TDM or cell switches.

However, the tendency not to use POTS copper on new installs would mean that new payphone rollouts would likely not be as protected, not being powered by the POTS lines but rather by a site-local power source, which could even be just grid. So what you say may happen for newer last mile setups, but existing POTS lines would likely be tied to a reliable backbone, VoIP or not.

Re:One good reason for a landline (2)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884295)

That's not necessarily true. Just because VoIP is a kludge compared to TDM or cell switched services, does not mean that the backbone equipment to do it will not be protected by the same backup systems as TDM or cell switches.

However, the tendency not to use POTS copper on new installs would mean that new payphone rollouts would likely not be as protected, not being powered by the POTS lines but rather by a site-local power source, which could even be just grid. So what you say may happen for newer last mile setups, but existing POTS lines would likely be tied to a reliable backbone, VoIP or not.

Actually there is more truth to it than you think. In my territory, once a land line is converted to a VOIP based service the local telco will no longer provide POTS to that household. You can cancel the voip, or re order voip service but you are not eligible to purchase POTS service any longer. At least that's how they explained it to me when I upgraded to voip.
On the upside, the features like call block that used to be available on POTS are once again available on digital. Pity it's just a marketing ploy, though.

I believe the justification they gave was they replaced the line to the house with fiber, and would no longer be maintaining the old copper line required for standard POTS.

Re:One good reason for a landline (2)

dugancent (2616577) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883575)

They are legally required, at least where I live, to have generator backup. Cell companies are not required and are dead if power is out more than a few hours.

Re:One good reason for a landline (1)

egamma (572162) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883851)

72 hours, according to the news during Sandy. That's not too shabby.

Re:One good reason for a landline (5, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883343)

You also need to remember to keep a non-cordless phone around to use with it. If the power is out and all you have is cordless (as many people do these days), you're still out of luck.

Re:One good reason for a landline (2)

jigamo (1554711) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883625)

Not necessarily. The Panasonic system [amazon.com] I have uses power from the handsets to power the base station in the event of a power outage. The system has 5 handsets, each of which will provide about 2-3 hours of talk time to the system. That should cover you for emergency calls during most power outages (and even some non-emergency ones).

Re:One good reason for a landline (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883401)

This is one good reason why a landline (not VOIP) is still good to keep around if you can get it for less than $10 a month. A lot more reliable during diasters than your cellphone (towers down, your battery dead).

Not necessarily - during an earthquake and subsequent island wide power outage in Hawaii, I was not able to get a dial-tone on my land line (the CO had power because the dial-pad lit up, but there was no dial tone at all for the first few hours after the quake). But SMS was working.

I couldn't make a cell phone call, but I was able to text a friend (on the same cell phone carrier - AT&T) to see if she was ok. I tried texting another friend on a different carrier, and it took a few hours for that message to be delivered. I was about to get sporadic data coverage as well, enough to read the news for more details about the quake. After a while I was finally able to place a voice call though my landline, but local only, I got an "All circuits are busy" message trying to place a call out of the area.

AT&T's email to SMS gateway was working too since I got a few automated messages sent to my phone's SMS address from the UPS at work telling me it was running low on battery.

Re:One good reason for a landline (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884265)

This is actually pretty typical after most disasters. SMS is the most reliable way to get messages back and forth. It can be a high-latency channel for communication, but the message eventually gets delivered. By contrast, a voice call requires a continuous channel that is hard to maintain when everybody is trying to place calls.

None of which helps if the cell tower isn't there anymore or has no power, of course, but with the cell tower density in most places, that's probably not a huge concern unless you're out in the middle of nowhere.

landline here is $22/month (0)

Chirs (87576) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884081)

Ironically, the VOIP service through the cableco is actually more expensive than a traditional twisted-pair line.

On the other hand, for real emergencies 911 works even on a "dead" twisted-pair line.

No. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883123)

Because all news items ending with a ? mark can be answered as no.

Disasters not a reason to keep payphones (1)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883143)

If the disaster is big enough then there will likely be a police officers or paramedics on every block anyway, which is what you'd want the phones to be used for anyway. We don't need emergency payphones for non-critical use, including people calling home to tell their relatives that they're ok.

Re:Disasters not a reason to keep payphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883229)

Telling your relatives that you are ok is pretty damn critical, actually.

Re:Disasters not a reason to keep payphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883767)

If the disaster is big enough then there will likely be a police officers or paramedics on every block anyway, which is what you'd want the phones to be used for anyway. We don't need emergency payphones for non-critical use, including people calling home to tell their relatives that they're ok.

Your view of possible disaster scenarios is very limited, and I am quite convinced by this alone
that you are an idiot since narrow-mindedness is one of the primary symptoms of stupidity.

Some disasters happen in places which may be many miles and many minutes ( or hours )
away from emergency workers.

You need to get out more, there is a lot more variation in the world than your tiny little brain
seems to grasp at this juncture.

No. (3, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883145)

It's time to both beef up the communications infrastructure to support reliable operation and to commit to helping your neighbors with access to things like a telephone, should you have one that works, during a major catastrophe.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883467)

It's time to both beef up the communications infrastructure to support reliable operation and to commit to helping your neighbors with access to things like a telephone, should you have one that works, during a major catastrophe.

*whiny spoiled brat voice* But that would cost MONEEEEEEEEEEEY!!! That'd mean we'd have to SPEND money, which means I wouldn't get as much of a bonus this quarteeeeeeeeer! I've got another yacht to buiiiiild! C'mooooooon!

Re:No. (-1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883577)

It's time to both beef up the communications infrastructure to support reliable operation and to commit to helping your neighbors with access to things like a telephone, should you have one that works, during a major catastrophe.

I'll help someone with a land line that's out, but if someone willingly severed his land line in order to save money, he willingly accepted the risk, and has no demands on getting free service from others who did not accept that risk.

Or, to put it another way: If you were too cold hearted to subsidize the land line network by subscribing to it, and chose instead to save a few bucks, I'm too cold hearted to help you for free. Pay me the amount you saved on turning off your land line, and I'll let you use my phone.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883685)

You must be a lawyer.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41884311)

Ah, thanks for adding to the discussion to let everyone know you're passive aggressive and read too much Ayn Rand.

You could just help people instead of judging them. I hope I'm never next to you in a crisis.

Little helpful life tip for you: Help everyone in need and let God (or the random heartless chaos of the godless universe) sort out the rest.

Re:No. (2)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884145)

The higher the technology, the bigger fall when it fails in a disaster.
you cant overengineer everything.
keeping around low tech backups is never bad, and is cheaper too.

emergency phones on freeways (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883149)

On a couple of occasions I've had car problems when on remote rural freeways in California, and been able to use the emergency phones that the state places within walking distance of pretty much every point along the freeway. Even if pay phones aren't commercially viable, having phones available for emergencies does make sense.

Keep 'em but make them better! (1)

Chuckles08 (1277062) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883159)

What about keeping them but enhancing their usability? For instance, combine them with other forms of information services - city info, etc. Or perhaps some corporate partnerships like movie rentals. The phone part would be separate to keep that available if someone else was searching for the latest Star Wars flick...

Re:Keep 'em but make them better! (2)

David Chappell (671429) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883623)

What about keeping them but enhancing their usability? For instance, combine them with other forms of information services - city info, etc. Or perhaps some corporate partnerships like movie rentals. The phone part would be separate to keep that available if someone else was searching for the latest Star Wars flick...

I would use pay phones but for two things: 1) They require coins which I often don't have, and 2) they generally either refuse to take my coins or take them and then don't let me call. So the top usability improvement that I would like to see is for them to accept payment using a prepaid card like in many European countries.

Re:Keep 'em but make them better! (3, Insightful)

nschubach (922175) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883951)

That's all fine and good, but why not just provide a tower with a bunch of powered USB ports for people to stand around and plug into. It can be solar powered with a battery for backup. No power ties would be needed and no hardline. If you really wanted to wire it up, put a few low power cell phone antennas/radios on the top that could easily be replaced when new technology permits. This way you solve the existing infrastructure problem of having tens of thousands of people jamming regular cell towers and give people a place to charge up in emergencies.

The thing is... people have their own displays they carry around with them now. If you wanted to provide a local service to them you'd best serve them by allowing wifi connections and directing them to a web page with that info.

Common emergency problem (5, Informative)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883171)

This is a common problem: emergency and safety systems are completely pointless 99% of the time... until you have an emergency, at which point they're indispensable. It's like the bail-out bag in the closet with the first-aid kit and other necessities for an emergency: for years you wonder why you keep it because you never use it, until that day you didn't see coming when the fire department knocks on the door saying the fire's jumped the line and you've got 15 minutes before it gets here (which has happened here twice since I moved here, so not a theoretical example). Myself, I'd keep pay phones around as one of those necessary emergency expenses, the kind of thing you know you've needed in the past and will need in the future but that you won't have time to get deployed if you wait until you do need it.

Re:Common emergency problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883379)

I believe the question being posed less of is it a good idea, but who pays for it?

Do you want the maintenance for all the existing payphones in your city/state coming out of your taxes? They won't support themselves, so the corporations won't run them. Oh, let's make a NEW telecom tax to support them . . . like for paying for number portability, which will never go away and then you still have to pay big bucks for. Then it will still never work right as the corporation will get paid regardless of whether they work or not.

Let people be responsible for themselves. Just like that bug-out-bag that maybe 10% of you have in your closet. The government cannot save you.

Re:Common emergency problem (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883523)

What exactly is wrong with a tax to pay for stuff like this?

This is exactly the sort of thing government is for.

Re:Common emergency problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883697)

What exactly is wrong with a tax to pay for stuff like this?

Because taxes are evil, and perpetrated by a gubernment which is taking away our rights and freedoms to not have access to a phone.

What kind of communist bastard would tax everybody just so a few people can have access to phones? If they can't accord a phone, they don't deserve one.

We can't make the phone companies provide this, as it would cut into corporate profits.

Why, such radical thinking would go against our collective Judeo-Christian values.

Re:Common emergency problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883815)

When was the last time you used your ability to take you landline phone number with you when you moved?

You do realize that you pay a tax, which goes directly to the telecom, for allowing the possibility of you doing this. On top of already being taxed for it, you get to pay again when you actually move your number.

Same for cell phone providers.

You will be giving money to the telecom, forever, while getting nothing in return. Just like you do now for number portability.

Re:Common emergency problem (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883957)

I have not had a landline for more than a decade.

Number portability should not have been fee based, it should have been required if they wanted operate as telcos.

Re:Common emergency problem (1)

afidel (530433) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884087)

I've never been charged for number portability, in fact we move a handful of numbers every month at work and we've never paid any additional fee to move one.

Re:Common emergency problem (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883635)

Do you want the maintenance for all the existing payphones in your city/state coming out of your taxes?

Yes. I'd much prefer that over the the tax money going towards cluster bombs.

Re:Common emergency problem (5, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883753)

Yes, I'd rather have my taxes going towards this than many other things. But I think frankly we don't need another tax for it. It's traditionally been handled as quid-pro-quo: "Telco, we're giving you cheap access to the public right-of-way to run your wires. Part of your side of the bargain is you're going to maintain these important services. If you don't want to maintain them, then let's talk about what the market price is for access rights for all your wiring...".

Re:Common emergency problem (5, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883511)

This is a common problem: emergency and safety systems are completely pointless 99% of the time... until you have an emergency, at which point they're indispensable.

San Francisco still has thousands hardwired call boxes for the fire department on every other street corner, it's a fall back in case an earthquake takes out other forms of communication.

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Why-S-F-still-counts-on-street-fire-alarm-boxes-3081293.php [sfgate.com]

Re:Common emergency problem (2)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883541)

This.

After twice, I'd have a WiFi external disk drive in the bail-out bag, that always held a backup of financial information and family photos.

Re:Common emergency problem (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884111)

Myself, I'd keep pay phones around as one of those necessary emergency expenses, the kind of thing you know you've needed in the past and will need in the future but that you won't have time to get deployed if you wait until you do need it.

Why pay phones then? There are lots of problems with the existing pay phone infrastructure - they are vandalized regularly, and tend to be used as a branch office for drug dealers. Seriously - here in Seattle they've removed pay phones from some locations because they were only being used by drug dealers.

If we really need such an item, then they shouldn't cost anything to use - otherwise it's government-sponsored profiteering during a disaster. Put them in accessible locations that are monitored, so we know they'll work when they're needed - maybe inside local businesses. And yes, this will cost money, so figure out a way to pay for installing and maintaining this new service.

If it were up to me, though, I'd rather see the time and energy spent on making the cell network more robust.

As some genius once said (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883185)

If the headline is a question, the answer is always "No".

Re:As some genius once said (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883489)

Yeah, that's not actually how the quote goes.

Re:As some genius once said (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883837)

Well, why don't you post it and get an automatic +5 funny mod from the mouth-breathers that now frequent this site? While you're at it, post a link to an xkcd comic with a picture of a neckbeared fag posting a tired joke based on a false premise to slashdot.

Captcha - aperture - You just keep on trying till you run out of cake

Is it really payphones that need to be maintained (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883195)

I suspect it isn't payphones, per se, that need to be maintained, but rather, the reliability of the wireline network that needs to be maintained. We traded nearly 6-nines reliability of POTS for ubiquitous wireless communication. Good cell coverage is hard under normal circumstance, but in a disaster scenario, nearly impossible.

Maybe after a disaster, communications trucks need to be rolled in to provide service. More than just a COW (cell on wheels), it would provide WiFi and wireline service (for those without devices) as well as power to recharge devices.

Re:Is it really payphones that need to be maintain (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883949)

I've always been slightly curious as to how difficult it would actually be to equip all cellphones with the chips and antenna necessary to communicate with something like the Iridium satellite network.

Barring something truly apocalyptic, it's not like the satellites are going to go down.

Re:Is it really payphones that need to be maintain (1)

vux984 (928602) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884023)

I suspect it isn't payphones, per se, that need to be maintained

Payphones are getting vandalized more now then before.

Probably in part because they are not as busy, so there is more opportunity, and because the vandals have cell phones so they aren't screwing themselves over...

We need at least one in each major city (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883237)

Otherwise where would Superman change into his costume?

They have phones in booths now? (1)

EliSowash (2532508) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883239)

Finally, I don't have to lug this cell phone around!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSWIhBO7Jc4 [youtube.com]

Re:They have phones in booths now? (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884021)

Also, if we get rid of all pay phones, where is Clark Kent going to change his clothes to become Superman?

Anonymous Calls (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883245)

If payphones are gone then how could someone make anonymous, untraceable calls (if need be)? Sure, they could trace it to that particular phone but by the time anyone gets there the caller will be long gone.

Re:Anonymous Calls (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884119)

If payphones are gone then how could someone make anonymous, untraceable calls (if need be)?

Long ago, society forgot that there could ever be a need for such a thing. Ironically, the same police forces that ask for anonymous tips about criminal activity also attacked anonymity systems, claiming that they would only be used by criminals.

No - Move Forward Instead (5, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883263)

Instead of maintaining a system that is practically obsolete we should put the effort into making the newer system more robust.

How about building pico-cells into emergency vehicles with some sort of dedicated wireless backhaul? Figure out how to queue access to cell phones so that even if such a system can only handle 5-10 voice calls at once (due to backhaul bandwidth limits), anyone with a basic cell phone can virtually "wait in line" until it is their turn to talk.

It doesn't have to be limited to emergency vehicles, we could build stand-alone units too that could be battery powered and deployed fairly quickly.

Re:No - Move Forward Instead (1, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883459)

Instead of maintaining a system that is practically obsolete we should put the effort into making the newer system more robust.

In other words:
Don't bother keeping what works working, instead we should spend obscene amounts of money and manpower on some new, theoretical system that may or may not work.


You sound like my Congressman.

Re:No - Move Forward Instead (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883745)

In other words:
Don't bother keeping what works working, instead we should spend obscene amounts of money and manpower on some new, theoretical system that may or may not work.

Uh no. Maybe you haven't noticed but payphones are going away because nobody is willing to spend an obscene amount of money maintaining them because nobody uses them. Meanwhile cell phone usage continues to increase. What i propose is to tweak the system that works 99% of the time so that it works 100% of the time.

Re:No - Move Forward Instead (2, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884017)

In other words:

Don't bother keeping what works working, instead we should spend obscene amounts of money and manpower on some new, theoretical system that may or may not work.

I'm sure the buggy whip makers said something similar in their day.

Re:No - Move Forward Instead (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883569)

Physical pay phones handle the problem of lost or stolen cell phones. Pico-cells don't.

Re:No - Move Forward Instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883675)

Physical pay phones handle the problem of lost or stolen cell phones. Pico-cells don't.

That's what your neighbors are for. The chances that you are in a disaster area and nobody around you has a cell phone are basically nil.

Re:No - Move Forward Instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883875)

Um, no. In a true emergency, everyone for themselves unless life or limb is in danger. Absent of that criteria the neighbors will not be allowed inside for any reason, which means they won't use my phone and I won't be using their phone.

Be prepared for an emergency or suffer, this includes those who foolishly only keep a cellphone and have no landline.

Re:No - Move Forward Instead (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883969)

Um, no. In a true emergency, everyone for themselves unless life or limb is in danger. Absent of that criteria the neighbors will not be allowed inside for any reason, which means they won't use my phone and I won't be using their phone.

Be prepared for an emergency or suffer, this includes those who foolishly only keep a cellphone and have no landline.

Yeah most of us are not sociopaths.

you obviously don't know your neighbours (3, Insightful)

Chirs (87576) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884117)

Historically speaking it's the people that band together and help each other in emergencies that do best.

Re:No - Move Forward Instead (4, Insightful)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884205)

The higher the technology, the bigger the fall when it fails in a disaster.

you cant overengineer everything, and the more complex/higher tech a thing is, the MORE likely it will fail in a disaster.

keeping around low tech backups is never bad, and its cheaper too.

Re:No - Move Forward Instead (1)

Solandri (704621) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884215)

How about just keeping an old-fashioned telephone (the kind that doesn't need to be plugged into a power outlet) in your closet? If the pay phones are working, that phone will work too when plugged into your house's phone jack. If you don't have landline phone service but still have a landline phone jack, you can usually still make 911 and toll free calls.

Think of Superman (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883265)

Superman is finding it harder and harder to find a place to change.

Portable cell towers instead? (1, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883275)

Maybe portable cell towers (with recharging docks for the phones?) would be better. Or for that matter, a kiosk where a Red Cross worker lets people use a satellite phone for 3 minutes per turn. The problem with fixed emergency infrastructure like phone boxes is they may get wiped out, and they're sitting unused almost always.

Re:Portable cell towers instead? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883607)

Yes, although satellites are slow and expensive. Portable cells towers built into trucks with their own generators and a high speed mesh network would be better. They would expand out from the nearest working high speed internet connection and expand into the disaster zone.

Re:Portable cell towers instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883703)

Expand out on what exactly? Roads?

Re:Portable cell towers instead? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883907)

A military hummer can cross some really rough ground, but yes, clearing the roads is an important part of cleaning up after a disaster. For port cities, a ship based version of the same thing would be useful.

Re:Portable cell towers instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41884155)

Why not use the existing infrastructure instead? You're talking about investing billions into something that needs to be researched, manufactured and maintained. Then updated every few decades.

Make it a law, that any company that wants to put a cell tower, must fulfill certain requirements, hardware and software. When people start calling 911, make it possible for the operator to kill the phone for an hour if it's some idiot with a missing cat, and if you double or triple the number of operators during a crisis, you should be ok.

All the expenses the government needs is for that emergency protocol and training, leaving the actual implementation to the mobile operators.

Telephone sanitation engineers (1)

wjousts (1529427) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883295)

Yes, because we are all descended from telephone sanitation engineers.

Wrong question asked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883323)

This really isn't so much a cell phone vs pay phone comparison, but rather a cell phone verses POTS. The simply fact is, cell phone infrastructure is far more vulnerable to natural disaster by their very nature. As such, consideration should be given to maintaining land lines in the area or your house. Pay phones are dinosaurs.

The only reason people turned to pay phones was because they were the primary land lines available for many.

Forget that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883331)

Have the poor get ObamaPhones.

Re:Forget that (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883619)

They already did. [youtube.com]

Public funded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883355)

If you want to have public payphones, you go ahead and set up the network. You can't force companies to provide free access to public telephony.

If it's so important, do it...don't look to Verizon to do it for you.

Not just payphones... (0)

kjs3 (601225) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883387)

Not only are we going to loose payphones, we are going to quickly loose universal service and probably land lines in many places. The carriers are fighting tooth and nails to be able to forget about all those decades of subsidies and only provide the most profitable services (wireless) and to shed everything else.

The old Bell SYSTEMS could afford it.... (1)

Larry_Dillon (20347) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883395)

Phone companies used to be able to afford not making much on pay phones until their lucrative long distance business was cannibalized by Sprint, etc.

Stop! Think! Breathe. (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883397)

Okay, your cell phone phone is dead. Zombies have taken out the cell towers. It's an urban apocalypse. You're surrounded by evil, and low on gas. And there are no pay phones. How do you get in touch with the mad scientist 500 miles away to get the cure?

It's easy guys: Walk into a commercial building with power and ask to use the phone. In fact, many without power will still have a few POTS lines powered (read: Not digital); but you may have to hunt for them, so if you're trapped in an apparently "dead" building with zombies and cthulu beasts outside, patience and a flashlight will save the day. Just avoid the restrooms.

I know I'm being sarcastic here, but seriously guys -- if you're ever in a true emergency situation, stop and think. House flooded? No fresh water? Think about where fresh water might be -- stop panic'ing and really think. Ding! Toilet reservoir. People get all manner of stupid in a crisis because something they used to depend on suddenly isn't there. Guys, you've got millions of years of evolution that has taught you to be adaptable.. but not a lick of those years is going to do you any good until you calm down.

We don't need pay phones. We need to teach people to be self-reliant, instead of hiding under their desks. The government and emergency services may not always be there for you. Neither will any of your modern conveniences. But there is nothing you need to survive that can't be found within a few miles of wherever you are in an urban environment. Food. Shelter. Water. Medical supplies. And if someone's injured, know first aid! It's not rocket science; Take a course today. And keep a small bug-out bag in your car. Less than $100 and some planning ahead of time and you can not only survive just about any catastrophe but also help the people around you.

Everyone should be doing this. Don't rely on your fucking cell phone, or having access to any phone at all. Don't rely on the government. Rely on you. In an emergency, that's the only person you can rely on.

Re:Stop! Think! Breathe. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883939)

YES! I take emergency preps somewhat seriously. Not sure where I get it from, but I still remember people giving my dad derisive looks when I went with him to fill a few spare gas cans prior to Y2K. Turned out not to be necessary, but in the end, you just pour the gas back into your tank the next week, and nothing is lost. Same thing goes for having some food on hand to last a few weeks. Buy some extra stuff you'll eat anyways, and set it aside. Eat and replace before it goes bad. I live in a 800 sq. ft condo, and have enough food to go for at least 3 weeks, because cans in a hard to reach unused top corner of a pantry take little space, and a few skids of water also can be stuffed somewhere similar. A good flashlight is something everyone should own, and have at the bedside.

In addition to the toilet tank, if you have a hot water tank you also have quite a bit of water on hand. Most have spigots near the bottom. If you drain it once in a while to clean any sediments, all the better.

When my great great grandfather immigrated and was granted a plot of forest on a rocky hill and told to make a farm out of it by the government at the time, he and his family got to it. Sure, he died of TB the first winter, but the rest of the family carried on. We've lost that toughness somehow.

Re:Stop! Think! Breathe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41884207)

Sure, he died of TB the first winter, but the rest of the family carried on. We've lost that toughness somehow.

Donner party. Cannibalism. The rest writes itself.

Re:Stop! Think! Breathe. (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884263)

We've lost that toughness somehow.

Sand states only. In the midwest, eh, its just another major blizzard, nothing we can't handle about twice a winter.

Three weeks isn't even all that much food. I probably have that much just in the chest freezer. No point buying burger meat for $5/lb when I can buy 10 pounds at $2/lb when its on sale, etc. No point buying 1 pound of white rice for $5 when I can buy 25 pounds for like $10 and being white rice it lasts forever.

Hmm...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883407)

The summary's ending statement reeks of heavy rhetoric and thus causes me to want to argue with it.

    The question isn't "And, should their continued existence be dependent on corporations whose primary duty is to their shareholders, rather than to the average citizen?" But "Should companies be forced to loose money on a service that they are forced to provide?" or "Should payphones be run by the government ?"

Im not convinced... But since I don't live in a dense urban area I might not understand the value. Payphones in most areas including my own are already extinct, and it would be very expensive to put them back in (unless the wiring and infrastructure has been maintained for some reason). Payphones are simply not profitable anymore in most places, and its bad for companies to loose money.

Already too late. (4, Interesting)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883427)

I couldn't tell you where ANY pay phones around here are. Heck, where you do see a pay phone, it's usually in a neighborhood where you're likely to get mugged or shot if you tried to use it anyway.

Re:Already too late. (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884033)

I'm pretty sure the payphones in my neighborhood were stolen and sold for their metal long ago.

Re:Already too late. (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884077)

I know where there are 3 pay phones are within a block of me. Then again I live in Canada, and they're still common in smallish communities still.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883443)

It's time to commit to a wireless infrastructure that doesn't vanish in bad weather.

I hear the same thing all the time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883465)

All execs and senior managers question the amount of money we spend on backups and anti-virus/malware .. and my guess they would change their opinion for a few minutes when a distaster struck .. until enough time has passed that memory goes away and profits become the incentive again.

The Free Market (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883481)

C'mon people, get rid of the regulated payphones now, and during the next disaster, Free Market PayPhones (tm) will just pop up everywhere like daisies. (Of course it'll be $100 per minute call, but hey, that's what the Free Market is for)

Seriously, the National Guard should have a bunch of communications trucks that can form a mesh network after an event like this. They should be able to connect to regular cell phones, prioritizing 911 calls, then allowing some WiFi traffic to move out of a disaster zone.

Even so, a pay phone is still useful if your cellphone is lost or stolen. Perhaps we should bring back big blue police call boxes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tardis [wikipedia.org]

Is it time to crack each other's heads open.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883493)

Is it time to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside?

A bigger question is... (1)

MatrixCubed (583402) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883539)

"Should we hold onto because it's been around forever?" - Pay phones: The complaint is that they're too expensive to maintain, given that everyone uses cellphones. - Package-based cable TV: The complaint is that you get programming you don't care about, or are unable to pay for just the shows you want to watch. - Broadcast radio: Too much goddamn advertising, given the shitty "top 40s" playlists and often personality-less/PC personalities between commercial breaks.

Repurposing of old tech (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883585)

I'm re-posting from the older thread linked above about NY's plans to use payphones as WiFi hotspots:

On a related note, have you ever wondered what that Police Public Call Box thing is that The Doctor uses to travel through space and time? I used to wonder too. It wasn't until I went to Edinburgh that I saw them and other objects that looked like them. I remember jumping out of my seat and saying "There's a Tardis!"

Well apparently they had a phone accessible from the outside that the public could use to call the cops in an emergency. Cops would have access to the inside where they could go in and hang their hat, hold a prisoner while help came, and effectively use it as a mini police station. Some of them remain and have been re-purposed for other uses like coffee shops or news stands. There were a lot of designs and didn't seem to standardize like the classic red phone box did.

Cities like Manchester, Glasgow and Liverpool have updated the concept with "help points", little computerized kiosks that are under CCTV surveillance and have a direct line to the police. It'd be cool if they could introduce the modern functionality but contain it in the form of the old 1929 Mackenzie Trench design that was popularized by Doctor Who.

The moral of the story is that once infrastructure is taken out it's very hard to put back in. If you leave it in place, even when it stops being immediately useful, it can find a use later when some new trend (coffee shops) or new technology makes it useful again. When the old Police Boxes were going out of service, the WWW was a long way off and nobody could have foreseen their reincarnation as help points.

There's also the matter of heritage value. I remember when the K6 phone box was so ubiquitous in the UK that nobody would have considered them as a collector's item. In fact I remember, when the one beside our house had a rotary phone in it, that they were quite dingy inside and not well maintained. They were rusty and the glass was always dirty and smudged. The rectangular plastic and stainless steel ones that came later were a lot more pleasant to use, but they didn't have the same character. But the K6 still has its fans. If the inside were as comfortable as a modern design then I'm sure they could be adapted to a modern use as well.

Re:Repurposing of old tech (2)

Picass0 (147474) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883651)

>> "When the old Police Boxes were going out of service, the WWW was a long way off and nobody could have foreseen their reincarnation as help points."

You've made a common mistake. There was only one Police Box, it just somehow managed to appear in numerous places at the same time.

Re:Repurposing of old tech (1)

jittles (1613415) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883737)

Anyone who has been to London knows that those boxes, as well as the red phone booths, are perfect for putting up ads with half naked women (escorts perhaps?). What better reason to keep them around?

Re:Repurposing of old tech (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884271)

The nice thing about the old booths was that they were totally enclosed so you were out of the wind and rain for a bit. Unfortunately, this made them ideal places to doss for the homeless and drunk.

Mobile Applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883605)

Mobile Applications [qwinixtech.com]
qwinixtech build mobile application, for your business?
  From iPhones & iPads to Android and Windows,
  we can create applications that will get your business
www.qwinixtech.com.

Of Course (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883627)

How else are we supposed to ensure that everybody has a quick way out of the Matrix should the need arise?

Develop Amazing Apps & Websites (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883641)

www.qwinixtech.com [qwinixtech.com] Develop Amazing Apps & Websites.

texting and data (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883691)

my mom spent the hurricane and flood in an ocean facing condo with a dumb phone. she's now going to get an iphone or Galaxy S3

the voice service was crap but the texting and data mostly stayed up even in the worst hit areas. texting i'm OK is good enough and there are lots of other features she will get

and payphones would have been useless as well since the water was high enough to destroy them

They come in handy (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883743)

Cell phones are great, but having a payphone option definitely comes in handy. I was at a large public event (a St Patrick's Day thing) a while back and had had a bit too much to drink and got separated from the group I was with. Had no idea where I was at and for some reason (I'm guessing just tower overload) my cell phone wasn't working. I kept trying to dial out for another hour or so but the battery eventually died. It was around 3am in the morning and virtually everything was closed.

Long story short, I was able to eventually find a payphone, call a cab, and get back to the hotel. Cell phones are great, but it doesn't even take a natural disaster to run into a scenario when you really need something else to fall back on.

If you'd like this service for free.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883765)

Just add an easement to your city's antenna tower permits that will allow people to put in ham radio repeaters with autopatches.

Individuals will pay for their own transceivers for free (as they have for about a century) and hams will move traffic that can be done simplex to other frequencies.

There are a dozen repeaters in reach of my commute to work. There are naturally in places that don't flood and hams generally have great battery backups connected to them. Further, they don't require the phone systems to work at all. I can reach any ham in the city with mine, no phone line involved.

Folks that are good at this may in fact be near you already:

http://www.qsl.net/races/links.html [qsl.net]

And these folk can get you started:

http://www.arrl.org/home [arrl.org]

Stuck in the Matrix (0)

Ravaldy (2621787) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883769)

Am I the only one that sees the demise of pay phones as a way for the Matrix to keep us trapped?

slm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41883781)

kelebek sohbet [kelebekchat.org]
sohbet odalar [kelebekchat.org]

Economics is not always wise. (1)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41883899)

The payphone thing is part of a much larger problem. Forty years ago, the entire U.S,. phone system (except for a few independent pockets) was owned by a single company. That company did a pretty good job of maintaining a robust, disaster-resistant communication infrastructure. But it also stifled competition and innovation.

In the deregulation-happy 80s, we got rid of that official monopoly. This has had many positive results (hard to imagine the modern Internet being built in such a restrictive environment) but also meant that nobody was responsible for making sure the system always works.

But (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884027)

If you had a working cellphone, you could instead have a microcell and emergency powerable charging ports. No need to for infrastructure to support collecting cash and able to be used by more than one person at a time and easy to armor against casual vandalism.

Re:But (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about a year and a half ago | (#41884043)

Should have checked the other replies first. Great minds think alike.

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