There are now fresh calls to wind back Australia’s financial commitment to the payphone system, but not everyone is stoked at the idea of those big ol’ boxes vanishing from every other street.

The Productivity Commission, which has been tasked with keeping tabs on Telstra‘s ongoing contract to keep the system going nationwide, says that the $44 million funnelled into the system annually could be more effectively spent. They reckon the whole thing should be wound down in the near future.

The proliferation of mobile phones and the eventual national ubiquity of the NBN will largely render the payphone network largely obsolete, the Commission reckons. Telstra has a contract to provide Aussies with communication coverage until 20-bloody-32, and the Commission thinks even more of Australia will secure alternatives to payphones well before then.

While the odds are pretty good you haven’t ducked into one of ’em for a hot minute, that’s definitely not the case for all of the nation. The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is concerned that those in rural areas “who are reliant on satellite services and do not have adequate mobile coverage, may lose access to voice services” should the payphone network totally wind up.

There are also fears that removing payphones would make life harder for the homeless, those in emergency situations, the elderly, or travellers without local mobile phone connectivity. The Commission noted that as many as 90,000 premises don’t yet have solid mobile connections, so it’s not like they could immediately yank payphones away, anyway.

As it stands, there are about 17,000 payphones in operation right now, compared to nearly 50,000 a decade ago. If you’re worried about that number dwindling further for purely sentimental reasons, we implore you to console yourself with this incredible payphone fan blog. 

Source: ABC /
Photo: Steve Christo / Getty.