December 5th, 2007 at 11:35am
It could very well be a sign of where Telstra are headed, American telecommunications company AT&T plan to remove all their payphones over the course of the coming year.
AT&T will continue to provide wholesale payphone services, so other companies will be able to cash in on AT&T’s exit, but if it’s good enough for AT&T, then I do have to wonder what the future has in store for Telstra’s payphones.
Thankfully, for the moment at least, Telstra have to adhere to a minimum standard known as the Universal Services Obligation, although the more I look into it, the less confidence I have in the USO’s ability to make Telstra do anything, especially after the government department responsible for the USO, the Department of Broadband, Communications and The Digital Economy (who names these things?) wrote this (page 15):
As currently drafted, this regulatory framework is quite flexible, and commits Telstra to ‘all reasonable efforts’ to provide a payphone and gives it discretion in weighing up the relevant factors.
That document shows a decline in the number of payphones by nearly 25% between 2000/2001 and 2005/2006 (although the actual dates on that are ambiguous).
Telstra normally receive a bit of a public backlash whenever they announce the removal of payphones, so I would be surprised if they were as bold as AT&T in announcing a removal of all payphones in the next year, or in any timeframe…but when I consider that their propaganda website nowwearetalking.com.au has an entire section devoted to extolling the virtues of their payphone service, I just have to wonder what they are capable of.
The precedent has been set, I can only hope it is not followed.