For those of us who are old enough to remember life before the dawn of the cell phone age, pay phones were life-savers, whether you rang your dad to come and pick you up from swimming or called your mom, pretending you were staying at a friend’s house when really you were up to other nefarious deeds. But these days, the need for public phones is becoming less and less. Add that to the maintenance costs required to keep these almost obsolete relics going, and it’s fair to say the future doesn’t look bright for the humble pay phone.
Currently, pay phones are considered a ‘universal service‘ in Japan; a term meaning something that is easily available at an affordable price for all citizens. According to current regulations, city areas are required to have a public pay phone installed every 500 square meters, with non-city areas every kilometer. There are presently 110,000 pay phones dotted about Japan, with an extra 40,000 pay phones installed by companies, although according to statistics over the past 20 years their usage has dropped to just two percent of what it used to be.
As a result, the government are currently mulling over the idea of reducing the number of pay phones in Japan, and relocating existing pay phones to evacuation shelters, where they can be used in emergencies. Ryota Takeda from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications will consult with the Information and Communications Bureau to make a decision, which is expected to be made by June.
Netizens were torn about the government’s announcement.
“I don’t think I’ve used a pay phone in about 20 years.”
“I bought a mobile phone because there were less and less pay phones.”
“As long as they’re at convenience stores or hospitals, I don’t really care either way.”
“Even if I needed to use a pay phone, I don’t know anyone’s phone number anymore…”
“What about people who can’t afford cell phones? It’d be like you’re abandoning them.”
“While you’re at it, get rid of NHK too, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications!”
“I often see foreigners using them.”
Hopefully the decision to move Japan’s once-ubiquitous pay phones to emergency shelters will give them a new sense of purpose.
Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Yomiuri Shimbun via Otakomu
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