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End of an era: Last Calgary pay phone removed from downtown court centre

The sign at the Calgary Courts Centre in Calgary is shown on Jan. 5, 2018. Last week, the city's last pay phone was removed from the Calgary Courts Centre. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland. WIG/GAC

Calgary’s last pay phone has officially been retired, according to Telus.

Last week, the pay phone was removed from the Calgary Courts Centre at 601 5 Street S.W., signalling the end of an era.

“Everyone’s got a pay phone story… I remember using a quarter and telling my mom to come pick me up at the mall,” said Brian Bettis, general manager for Telus.

“We saw the peak usage of pay phones in Calgary were in the late 1990s and into the 2000s.”

Read more: How often are payphones used in Alberta?

One reason why the pay phone was removed was that parts have become hard to acquire as consumers continue to favour personal cellphones.

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“While pay phones have a wonderful legacy, we’ve gotten to a place now where pay phone parts have become very hard to acquire because of their lack of use. Not a lot of companies make pay phone parts anymore,” he told 770 CHQR.

“With that, the number of people that have pay phone expertise has significantly gone down. It’s hard to find people to do the repairs on the pay phone units themselves.”

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Bettis said there were also economic concerns: almost all pay phones generate less than $10 a year to date compared to the thousands of dollars of revenue a month with cellphones.

The pay phone in the Calgary Court Centre was the most used, generating around $300 for the first nine months of the year.

“It’s not something that was sustainable… There are alternatives. There are landline phones that are available for free calls at the courthouse and in locations where we’ve removed pay phones,” he said.

“Now that networks have become more robust and options for connectivity and communication became more significant, people can use their cellphones like their own personal computing devices.

“You can communicate over a number of different platforms. You can communicate on watches now… It’s a natural end of an era.”

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But pay phones have not been completely removed from Calgary and the city’s surrounding areas.

“There are still areas that don’t have robust cell coverage due to geographic or topographic challenges like mountains or lakes, and those pay phones still exist because they’re providing a public service and there are few alternatives,” Bettis said.

“We’re still going to prioritize areas where that connectivity is less available.”

 

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