A Sign of the Times: The FCC Says Goodbye to Outdated Rules for Payphones

Payphone use in the U.S. peaked in 1999, when over 2.1 million payphones were in service

A Sign of the Times: The FCC Says Goodbye to Outdated Rules for Payphones
Image: Pixabay
February 23, 2018

When was the last time you used a payphone? The answer for most people is quite some time ago—if ever.

As a result, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has eliminated a number of outdated rules that have governed the payphone industry—rules that it says are no longer justified since payphone revenues have plummeted due to a changing communications marketplace.

Unnecessary and Wasteful Rules

Gone are costly payphone audit requirements that the FCC removed as part of its effort to "cut unnecessary and wasteful rules so that industry resources can be put to more productive use."

The FCC points out that "technological and marketplace changes have made these expensive audits unnecessary to ensure that the few remaining providers are compensated fairly."

From 2.1 Million to 100,000 Payphones

Payphone use in the U.S. peaked in 1999, when over 2.1 million payphones were in service. In 2003, the FCC adopted the above mentioned audit rules to make sure that long-distance and other providers that handled calls originating on payphones compensated payphone providers as required.

Due to the rise of mobile service over the past two decades, the number of payphones in the U.S. by the end of 2016 had decreased dramatically to fewer than 100,000 still in use nationwide.

At the same time, the FCC says that it has received no complaints over improper compensation to payphone providers in recent years as clearinghouse vendors now act as intermediaries between payphone providers and connecting carriers.

Will Not Affect Provider Compensation

The FCC stresses that the elimination of the payphone audit rules does not change the amount of compensation due to payphone providers or their ability to seek redress for compensation they believe they are due from other phone service providers.

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