Payphones in Costa Rica

Summary:The last time I used a payphone was back in the summer of 2001. I remember it being a cool summer filled with constant rain, a summer in which seeing clear sky was a rarity and it was tough to get the mould out of your clothes.


The last time I used a payphone was back in the summer of 2001.

I remember it being a cool summer filled with constant rain, a summer in which seeing clear sky was a rarity and it was tough to get the mould out of your clothes. You'd see bright blue butterflies flit through the dark and leafy undergrowth, while exotic birds cried wildly overhead.

Of course I wasn't in Sydney.

I was on a trek deep into the rainforests of Costa Rica, on a quest with other young people of idealistic bent, determined to build rainforest trails to preserve the environment and dig aqueducts to pipe potable water to the local villages.

I kid you not.

The only method of communication from this jungle paradise back to my worried parents in Broken Hill was via the humble payphone, one of which was situated on the edge of the village we stayed at.

Although the cost was prohibitive (my parents told me it was in the hundreds of dollars per call), I fully appreciated the power of these magical devices as they conveyed to me the aural reality of my parents' voices from the other side of the globe.

Cut back to Australia in 2006.

I can't remember the last time anyone I know used one of these contraptions and for the life of me I can't understand why such a hullabaloo has been raised about Telstra's seemingly sensible idea of removing some 5,000 of them.

Looking at the reality of the situation, yes payphones are a pretty core resource for some individuals and communities.

But most of Australians (unlike a lot of Costa Ricans) would probably never think to use a payphone unless their mobile was on the blink.

In addition, it looks like Telstra is pretty interested in keeping payphones operating where they are actually in use.

"Telstra last year increased the number of rural payphones...Telstra previously closed or relocated over 1,000 payphones every year, but community feedback has seen Telstra reverse its position in about 10 percent of cases," said a statement from the incumbent which landed on my desk this afternoon.

If you're worried about Telstra taking away your community payphone...the answer seems clear: make your case to the incumbent through its normal processes and you'll have a pretty good chance of success.

On the other hand, I suspect the majority of us wouldn't notice if our neighbourhood payphone quietly disappeared.

Topics: Telcos, Telstra

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