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Decline of the loose-change phone call

Atlanta-based BellSouth is hanging up on pay phones. The phone company plans to pull the plug on all of its 143,000 pay phones peppered throughout the Southeast by the end of 2002.

That's roughly 7 percent of the total 2 million pay phones stationed nationwide.

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BellSouth attributed the decision to the growing use of cellphones and pagers. About 61 percent of American households now own cellphones.

Pay phones have been producing smaller revenues, the company says, because more people are using "dial around" services, such as collect, toll-free, and "10-10" calls.

BellSouth plans to sell many of its pay phones to other companies. But it will also give the locations that host them - hotels, airports, gas stations - the option of ripping them out.

For now, pay phones operated by the regional monopolies in other parts of the country appear safe. Verizon Communications, the largest regional phone company, said it has no plans to abandon the 460,000 pay phones in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. SBC Communications, which serves the Southwest and Midwest, also intends to keep its more than 400,000 pay phones in service.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society