By making domestic calls using the pay phones free, the operator hopes to help support some of Australia’s most vulnerable people

When was the last time you used a pay phone? For many of us, the answer will be many years ago, with mobile phones having become ubiquitous in numerous markets throughout the world. 

But despite the rise of mobile, coin-operated public phones still see hefty usage around the world, especially by some of the world’s most vulnerable people, offering access to critical support services for those in difficult circumstances.
Now, Telstra is making calls using its network of 15,000 public pay phones free, provided the recipient is within Australia, hoping to make this infrastructure even more accessible to those in need, such as the homeless, isolated, or those suffering domestic violence.
“Last year alone Australians made 11 million calls on pay phones, including more than 230,000 calls to vital services like Triple Zero,” said Telstra CEO Andrew Penn. Triple Zero (i.e., 000) is the Australian emergency services number.
“During COVID-related lockdowns, we’ve seen domestic and family violence agencies report a 60% rise in new clients seeking help for the first time…It’s not always easy for people in these situations to use a home phone or their mobile to get help so I hope that making pay phone calls free might play a small part in helping them get the assistance they need,” he explained.
The move is not entirely without precedent, with Telstra making the phones free to use in the past for communities experiencing natural disasters, as well as during the Christmas and New Year period annually since 2016. In addition, around 600 phones were made free to use by remote indigenous communities during 2020 to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic. 
Nonetheless, the financial implications for the decision are sizable; according to Penn, making these phones free to use will cost Telstra around AU$5 million per year in lost revenue.
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