Residents in Okotoks will be saying goodbye to a fading piece of technology that people are using less and less...the payphone.
Sometime in the late Sixties early Seventies the company AGT, Alberta Government Telephones, would have deployed payphones throughout Okotoks. It was cutting edge technology at the time for the cost of a nickel.
For generations, the payphone was a meeting point for friends or your sole connection to home. Collect calls and point-to-point conversations.
Fast forward to now and the payphone has gone from “the only way to call home” to just another “thing” to be repaired.
Repair costs are one reason that is contributing to the decline of payphones across the country. Adding the fact that almost no one uses these aging lines of communication, Telus decided to disconnect and dismantle the remaining two payphones in Okotoks.
One is downtown and another is in the Riverbend Campsite just outside town.
Brian Bettis, General Manager for Customer Solutions Delivery at Telus understands the nostalgia surrounding the payphone but knows now is a good time to hang up.
“For us, we really want to try to celebrate the legacy of these payphones. But you might say, ‘well, why are you turning them down?’
“Over the last two years, we've seen them generate less than five dollars a year. Remembering that fifty cents is the amount of a phone call, you can see just how small that is. We're talking about less than 10 calls a year.”
The payphones in Okotoks will be leaving on April 25.
They aren’t just coming in and swooping it away without a goodbye. They will be making a $5,000 donation in the town's name to the Telus Friendly Future Foundation to provide charitable grants to the community.
“While it doesn't help us in the over 25 crowd ... That donation will help youth and support those in the area for the future generation.”
They won’t just be thrown away either. Understanding the impact payphone has had and the history that surrounds them, they are taking applications from those that may want them.
“If there's a museum or a society, or even an interested person that would like to take possession of the phone, we're willing to certainly arrange that. The opportunity for people to display and honour this incredibly important fixture in the history of communications technology."
They ask that interested parties email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They are only removing the payphones in communities and areas that have an abundance of communication infrastructure. Leaving them in spots with diverse geography or topography like mountains or lake areas where communication is spotty or their aren't other means of communication. These include national and provincial parks, or in First Nations communities.