Higher Ground

I don’t own a cell phone, which makes me a bit of a freak in this day and age. I remember travelling on a bus in Guatemala and saw a peasant woman pull a cell phone out of the band of her skirt. It’s not just because I don’t want brain cancer, but also I don’t want to be on call twenty-four hours a day. Given my somewhat addictive nature, I know it wouldn’t be long before I looked like everyone else, with that plastic appendage glued to my ear. So, I rely on pay phones when I’m out and about.

Meanwhile, Telus has been busy ripping out this community service. They went from around 5,000 payphones in Metro Van in 2008 to around 4,000 currently. Telus claims payphones are no longer profitable because most people have cell phones. The units are frequently vandalized too and, in some neighbourhoods, used to conduct drug deals and other illicit business. It costs $5,000 to replace a payphone. They also say they are careful about removing the phones, especially in low income areas. They apparently consult with the community and landlords who host the phones beforehand.

But why did they take the phone out of the community centre where I swim? Now if I need to use the phone I have to ask at the desk. You have to walk a long way in Kitsilano to find this public service. I don’t recall any public consultation on the removal of the phones that used to be in my neighbourhood. There are a lot of seniors in my community who don’t have cell phones either. I find it ironic that Telus is currently running a philanthropic campaign called “Give Where You Live.”

I think I know where Telus has been relocating the payphones though. When I was in Tofino recently, I was amazed to see phone booths every few paces. There were about as many payphones as Tsunami warning signs. Which begs the question, if a Tsunami or earthquake hits, cell phone service will likely go down, so isn’t it better to have landlines? That is provided the booths aren’t washed away.

Hopefully Telus will place their pay phone service on higher ground.


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