AT&T Disconnects Pay Phones

Call a friend on your cell to report end of 129-year-old business
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2007 12:12 PM CST
The AT&T, Inc. logo is seen on on of the company's buildings in San Antonio in this April 25, 2006 file photo. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, file)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – In 1878, one of AT&T’s ancestors introduced the first pay phone—an ordinary phone with an attendant nearby to take callers’ cash. Now the company is discontinuing its pay-phone operations, it announced today, 129 years later. With roughly 80% of Americans owning cellphones, pay phones had shrunk to “a very small part of our overall business,” a spokesman said.

Independent operators will take over AT&T’s 65,000 phones. Overall, the US now has 1 million pay phones, down from 2.6 million in 1998. Bell South had already gotten out of the business when AT&T bought it in 2006. Verizon, the country’s second-largest wireless carrier, still operates pay phones.