Verizon says it is staying in pay-phone business

ECONOMIC NAVIGATION & SIGHTSEEING

Bloggin Biz

December 09, 2007|By JAY HANCOCK

Good news for Marylanders on the go who don't have cell phones. (Are there any left besides me?) Verizon, the last major telecom company in the stationary pay-phone business, says it has no intention of exiting.

In the wake of news that AT&T is trying to sell its pay-phone business, I asked Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell if Verizon would be next.

Although the company has only about 225,000 pay phones in 28 states and D.C. these days - half what it had in 2000 - it apparently still likes the business. It gets pay-phone revenue not only from quarters dropped in slots but from phone-booth ads, discounted international calling and a collect-calling number (800-USE-THE-VZ), says Mitchell.

Naturally, Verizon makes the most money from phones at BWI, bus stations and other transportation hubs, where the pedestrian-to-phone ratio is especially high.

"Pay phones continue to provide an important service for millions of people - the person who prefers to pay as he goes, for example, as opposed to having the fixed monthly payment associated with cell service," says Mitchell. "They can be very valuable in a personal or social crisis; the Sept. 11 attacks and the New York City blackout a couple of years later produced a new appreciation for pay phones, when customers lined up 20 deep to use them."

Verizon will, however, keep "managing the inventory" of pay phones and whacking locations that don't perform.

BGE natural gas cost inches up for December BGE has posted its core natural gas price for the month. It is 95.6 cents per therm - up slightly from November's 92 cents. This is above last year's December price of 86.6 cents, but below the $1.037 hit in January of this year and way below the $1.262 of December 2005, right after Hurricane Katrina disrupted gas supplies.

So far, people who did not sign up for independent offers locking in a price of $1 per therm for 12 months are coming out ahead. But January and February will be the true test.

In any event, people who heat with natural gas this winter are probably better off than people who heat with oil or electricity, all other things being equal.

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