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July 1, 2000
APCC 2000 Conference NewsPayphones:
A Future Not Quite Like the Past
By James R. Dukart
Woe is the payphone industry, right?
It should come as no surprise to industry observers that the public communications industry, faced with steadily increasing nationwide wireless penetration, feels a bit under siege lately.
Facing the dual specter of falling coin call revenues and the uncertainty of dial-around compensation, these are trying times for public communication providers.
But don’t count payphone providers out yet. More than 500 independent payphone providers (IPPs) gathered in May for the American Public Communications Council (APCC) 2000 show in Las Vegas.
For three days, attendees heard about new opportunities for payphones. The actual term “payphone” was heard with far less frequency than two other words that sum up the new opportunities. Speakers agreed that the plain old “black box” payphones represent a slow-growing past and present. Greater promise lies in payphones that serve as public network access terminals and Internet kiosks.
(www.apcc.net) devoted fully half of its educational seminars to presentations on Internet kiosks and the development of new technologies that may replace standard coin-operated payphones. Seminar participants discussed a wide range of issues, from the increasing use and development of smart cards in Europe and Mexico; to advertising possibilities on public Internet screens; and to the health hazards of cellular phone use.
APCC President Vincent Sandusky opened the conference with what he called a “50,000-foot view” of the past decade in the payphone industry. Sandusky says IPPs have seen coin-call revenues decline gradually, a process that has been expedited by the growth of wireless during the past three years.
Compensation for 1-800 dial-around and other calling card use has swung between $6 per phone per month and more than $45 per phone per month during the past decade, he notes. Currently, that topic is among the major regulatory issues the APCC is arguing before the FCC
Industry consultant John Gammino introduced public-access high-speed Internet terminals to the conference. These Internet kiosks became a focus for many of the subsequent presentations, as well as a featured exhibit on the trade show floor.
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