Crippled pay phones [telecom]

I recently got a new computer and I am moving my archives to the new one. I was scanning through the old telecom postings and saw this from November 15, 1992:

"According to a UPI story, Ohio Bell has announced plans to cripple some pay phones in Cleveland. They have already started converting pay phones from tone dial to rotary, and restricting them to outgoing calls only. Now they will also be disallowing coin calls (credit card and collect will still be allowed) at certain hours of the day, and disabling the tone pad after dialing on those phones that still have tone dials. They claim that this will limit the use of pay phones for illegal purposes."

Something I long noticed but never asked about was the situation with Texas pay phones. I lived in the state from 1986-1987 and 1998 to present. I lived/visited areas with GTE (and successors), Southwestern Bell (and successors), and third party pay phones. None of them accepted incoming calls. I found this strange as pay phones in other states I had lived in accepted calls.

According to this page:

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pay phone operators must indicate if a pay phone can accept calls. This tells me there was no blanket law prohibiting this. Yet it seemed to be the rule.

Further searching doesn't reveal anything. I'm guessing with pay phones being so passé this just doesn't come up. I'm curious if anyone here knows the story of Texas pay phones and why they didn't like incoming calls.

If you're ever bored or nostalgic it's worth a visit to the archives to see just how far we've come (or how bad we've gotten depending on your perspective).

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John Mayson
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This was common in many places. Quite a few years go I encountered this at a grocery store in an area of Oklahoma City which I would say was borderline. What I found disconcerting was that you had to give your credit card number aloud to an operator.

This depends on the situation. At one group of pay phones at Tinker Air Force Base, workers on break would call their home number and when it rang once or twice, would hang up. This would be a signal for the called party to call them back. Hence a heavy trafficked group of pay phones that did not generate any revenue for the phone company. Those phones were changed to outgoing only and the abuse stopped. I would guess this was done in many places. (..snip..)

An earlier reason, as noted, was to try to stop cheating the phone company.

Wes Leatherock

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As others mentioned, it was to deter use by drug dealers and criminals and lost revenue by the phone company.

In high crime areas municipal officials encouraged installing rotary phones and outward only to deter the drug trade.

The pay phones in my area used to be unlimited time for local calls, just like regular phones. But then Bell changed the pay phones to time local calls and charge overtime. At that point many people simply asked the person they called to call them back to avoid the overtime charge; which meant lost revenue by the company.

However, at that time many people objected. For instance, AAA (auto club) said it needed to be able to call back phones to assist motorists in need.

There are so few payphones now I think the issue is moot. Payphones I've seen in public places take incoming calls. The phones still have a real ringer, not electronic. Given how many payphones have been pulled out, I suspect new ones haven't been built in some time and they have a huge idle inventory. I suspect the remaining phones in service are relatively old.

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