Telstra has today announced that all Australians can make free calls on more than 15,000 pay phones across the country.
While many of us probably haven’t used a payphone in years, thanks to our smartphones, phone booths around the country act as an essential service to those who can’t otherwise access or afford to make phone calls.
“Telstra Payphones are now free phones for everyone to anywhere in Australia. They are an iconic and critical part of our community, and for many Australians, the availability of a payphone is a vital lifeline, especially for those who are vulnerable including the homeless, people who are isolated or someone escaping an unsafe situation. That’s why I have taken this decision to make national calls from payphones free, because they play such a critical role in our community particularly in times of need and for those in need,” Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said in a statement.
As part of the program, all 15,076 Telstra payphones across Australia will be free for local and domestic calls. The only restriction on the calls is a six-hour limit, if you’re keen on a lengthy phone call with your mum.
According to Telstra, approximately 11 million calls were made from its payphone network last year alone. Interestingly, more than 230,000 of these calls were made to emergency services like LifeLine and ‘000’, thus illustrating how incredibly important payphones still are in 2021.
“I have been moved seeing firsthand queues of people waiting in line, to use a payphone to tell their family and friends they’re safe after a bushfire, a cyclone or some other natural disaster has taken the mobile network down. I can only imagine the relief their families feel knowing their loved one is safe,” Penn said.
“During COVID-related lockdowns, we’ve seen domestic and family violence agencies report a 60 per cent rise in new clients seeking help for the first time, and an increase in abusive behaviours overall. 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 payphone calls free might play a small part in helping them get the assistance they need.”
The move to make all payphones across the country free comes after Telstra previously trialled it in remote Indigenous communities and areas impacted by natural disasters.