No more Alaskan pay phones

ACS, the statewide telecommunications company in Alaska, has decided to get rid of ALL their pay phone in the entire state. They claim dwindling revenue and increased repair costs. However, I don’t see why they need to get rid of all of them. They didn’t raise rates. They didn’t get rid of just some of them. For instance, if they had more than one in a location, the additional ones could be removed. They didn’t phase them out slowly so people could adjust. They didn’t give notice that they were even going to remove them. No. They simply got rid of all of them, everywhere. This includes communities where cell phone service is unavailable.

I see this as a huge safety issue.  Since ACS basically had a monopoly on pay phone in the state, you can’t just go somewhere else that has a pay phone from another company. With a few minor exceptions, there is no other company. I also see it as an attempt to increase cell phone sales. If you don’t have a pay phone and need to make a call away from home, you now need to purchase a cell phone. I don’t know what communities without cell access will do, and there are a lot of them in rural Alaska.

Not only have they taken phones from places like stores and post offices, but they have also removed them from harbors and airports. Many boat owners and crew (myself included) don’t always have cell phones or if they do, reception can be spotty. They rely on the dockside pay phones, especially in coastal communities without cell service, to check in with friends and family. Some harbors are isolated from the community so if a safety problem occurred without a pay phone, it may be hard to find help. If you were dropped off at an airport and your flight was delayed or canceled, which frequently happens in rural Alaska, you would need to borrow a phone to call for a ride. Again, this may be difficult in places without cell service.

When they removed a pay phone, no notice was put up as to why.  No notice was put up in advance warning of it’s removal. The phone was simply removed. Many store owners were surprised when ACS showed up and removed the phone. In some small businesses, people came to the business simply to use the pay phone. However, while they were there, these people often bought a little something as well, so the phone was a way to draw in customers.

I am likely writing the state regulatory commission to complain.  Besides being a safety issue, this is an anti-monopoly issue. This is exactly the situation anti-monopoly laws were designed to prevent.  I can understand they are a business and loosing money, but they over reacted. I would urge anyone else who has used a pay phone for any reason in Alaska to also write and complain. Pay phones are an essential public service in Alaska. We need pay phones!


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