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December 8, 2002

CRTC Ponders Payphone Price Increase

From: New Winnipeg, Canada - 08 Dec 2002

By Alex Reid

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is assessing Canadian payphones - especially the price to use them.

The 25-cent payphone rate has been in place for 26 years, and in recent years, Canadian telecommunication companies have been slowly pulling out from retaining many of their payphones. Most telephone companies have also been applying to increase the payphone rates from 25-cents to 50-cents.

In 1998, Telus got approval from the CRTC to raise payphone rates 10-cents in Alberta. At that time, the company cited that fewer people were using the phones, and they should be self-supporting.

"It costs (us) more to maintain an individual payphone than the revenue the current 25-cent rate provides - especially in low-traffic areas," said Dan Delaloye, the vice president of Telus' Card, Operator and Payphone Services, at the time.

However, social groups say the phones are a public service.

Wayne Helgason, Executive Director of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, estimates that almost 10% of inner city residents don't have phones and any raise in payphone rates will hurt them.

"It will directly affect directly those who don't have other opportunities," Helgason told NewWinnipeg.

Because of these recent applications, the CRTC wants to know from the public if they support the increase of payphone rates. The commission also is looking for comments on access to payphone services by deaf, hearing-impaired and speech-impaired consumers. The public should send notice to the CRTC by December 19th, 2002.

The CRTC was formed in 1968 by Parliament to regulate Canada's broadcasting and telecommunications industry. The CRTC introduced payphone competition during the summer of 1998.

© 2002