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Hanging up pay phones

Payphone Soon the only place you'll see a coin-operated phone is in the past. AT&T has decided to ditch the business at the end of 2008. The total number of pay phones have halved since 1998 when BellSouth exited. Today, AT&T owns and operates public pay phones in 13 states. Cell mobility is the culprit. Cell use has quadrupled in the past decade and about 80 percent of people in the U.S. now have mobile phones, according to CTIA--The Wireless Association.

While the overt loss in vanishing pay phones means increasing use of cell phones, a more discrete change is the growing shift toward "third screen" content: advertising and entertainment content targeted to cell phones. Third-screen messaging has all the advantages of online marketing with the added impact of personal delivery on a mobile device.

It's been over 118 years since the first coin-operated phone was installed in Chicago and only a few groups are showing any sign of concern; the Justice League of America calls it "a national crisis." Maybe someone should give those folks a quarter to call someone who cares--if they can find a pay phone.


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