I was at the grocery store on Tuesday, picking up a few items for a
friend who is sick in bed. I ran into a few unanticipated options in
selecting the items he requested, so I figured the easiest thing to do
was to call and inquire whether he wanted his applesauce with or
without sugar, cinnamon, and/or cranberries. I had already put some
of the items in the basket, so I didn't want to leave the store
entirely, lest my stuff be put back on the shelves before I returned.
Not to worry -- there is a payphone right at the entrance to the
"Effective 10/7/97, local calls 35 cents" was plastered on the phone
near the coin slot. Sure enough, I had to pay $0.35 for this call.
California law is explicit and clear: local payphone calls are to be
no more than $0.20 for the first 15 minutes. However, the federal law
now pre-empts local authority, even though that pre-emption is
blatantly unconstitutional: a local call is clearly INTRAstate
commerce, and thus not subject to federal regulation. Congress and
the FCC have unquestionably overstepped their legal authority.
And today we see the FCC continuing with its ridiculous rules on
reimbur*t to payphone owners for calls to toll-free numbers.
First of all, the per-call charge is ridiculously high, even at $0.28,
and secondly, it shouldn't be a flat fee per call. I think that a
rate of $0.05 for the first minute and $0.01 per additional minute
would be entirely reasonable and proper, although I still don't grant
the point that it's reasonable or proper to reimburse payphone owners
ANYTHING for this service. Every single payphone owner entered the
business knowing full well that they would have some non-revenue
calls, so their crying and wailing influences me not the least. Why
should *I* pay more to give these companies something with NOTHING
given in return?
Payphone deregulation has been an unmitigated failure, far beyond any
problems with deregulation of other aspects of the telephone system.
What benefits has the CONSUMER seen from payphone deregulation??
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The only benefit perhaps to the consumer
is that some COCOT operators do try to actually be competitive in
environments where other phones are located. As I mentioned a couple
days ago, the COCOTS I had installed at the place of business only
charge 25 cents and I intend to keep them that way as long as possible.
When you see a privately operated pay phone why don't you courteously
suggest to the owner that if he were to set local call prices so low
it was 'almost a giveaway' it would serve to promote a lot of goodwill
for his establishment. It could even be tied into a promotion for the
store with a sign saying, 'not sure what to buy or how much to get?
Call back home to find out; this phone set at a low cost as a courtesy
to assist our customers.' ... or words to that effect. The phones
I had installed for the guy here in Skokie have already generated much
good will for him; i.e. people arriving on the bus late at night who
need a taxicab for example need only deposit 25 cents and press *2 to
get one. The speed dial on the phone then does this routine:
6731000,,,1,1,1,cocot-number,1,1,1,2 and the taxicab
interactive voice response unit says, 'thank you, your
cab will arrive in approximatly 5-10 minutes. You may
hang up now.'
What that does is dials the taxicab number; pauses for 3x2 seconds to
wait for an answer; yes I have a touch tone phone (do not need to wait
for a live operator); yes I want to order a cab (as opposed to package
delivery service or rechecking status on a pending order); it will
come to a residence or place of business (as opposed to airport or
hotel); the number of the phone placing the call is checked in the
database to find the address where to send the cab; number of persons
traveling (I just had them default this to one, it does not really
matter if two or three people also ride); going to same community (a
choice could have been  going to nearby community, but again it
does not matter); 'driver might not allow smoking  okay  must
be non-smoking  must allow smoking'; no I do not need to have
this order repeated back to me for verification (a choice could have
been  repeat this to me to be sure it is correct). Each comma
puts in a two-second pause.
I have *3 speed dial the toll free number for Greyhound information
and *4 dial the number for local transit information. *5 calls a time
and weather message. *2 *4 *5 cost 25 cents each. A sign on the
phone indicates these options. I think there does exist the possi-
bility that some payphone owners will use them as ways to build and
maintain goodwill with customers. You might suggest it to merchants
you trade with. PAT]