Some pay phones to stay at least one more year

Posted: Thursday, May 27, 2010

GCI, which recently removed many of its pay phones around Juneau, has agreed after discussions with city officials to keep around 20 phones in public locations through June 30, 2011.

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Photos By Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Photos By Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The company, which will pay for the phones itself, has also modified the remaining phones so that all local calls are free. Calling cards and 1-800 numbers also will work.

Angela Hull, executive assistant for city manager Rod Swope, has been in discussions with the company since the city was taken by surprise by the removal of pay phones around the city. She said the city is “very appreciative” of the step.

“They offered. We didn’t ask them to do this,” she said. “It’s a wonderful community service that they’ve offered us.”

Currently, there are three phones on the outside of City Hall, a minimum of one at each harbor, around a dozen on the downtown docks, and one in the library parking garage.

Hull said the city will revisit the issue in the fall.

Also, GCI Vice President of Commercial Sales and Marketing Brad Spees said the company will do a review of which phones are generating volume at the end of the tourist season and will discuss whether or not to pull out any additional phones at that point.

“If there are some we found over the course of the tourist season aren’t being used, we would consider whether or not it makes sense to keep those… but that would be a mutual discussion between us and the city,” he said.

Hull said the city wants “to provide public access and be mindful of cost.”

After the end of the next fiscal year, Hull said the city is looking at a cost of around $500 per phone per year just for the line, not including possible maintenance and other costs.

Spees said with the exception of a few other locations with contractual agreements, GCI has exited the pay phone business. This is an agreement specific to Juneau, brought about by concerns the city raised, he said.

Spees said GCI chose to make local calls free because it spends more money collecting coins from pay phones than it makes on them.

Alaska Communications Systems also decided recently to get out of the pay phone business.

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