Bell wants to double cost of pay phone calls

A Bell telephone pay phone is shown in Oakville, Ont., Feb.23, 2012. Bell Canada and Bell Aliant Inc. want to double the price of a local pay-phone call.They are asking the CRTC to approve a rate increase that would raise the cost of a cash call to $1 from 50 cents and raise calling card or debit card calls to $2 from $1. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Richard Buchan

GATINEAU, Que. - Bell Canada and Bell Aliant Inc. want to double the price of a local pay-phone call.

They are asking the CRTC to approve a rate increase that would raise the cost of a cash call to $1 from 50 cents and raise calling card or debit card calls to $2 from $1.

The companies say they need more money to deal with new loonies being brought out by the Royal Canadian Mint.

They say the existing technology won't be able to recognize the new coins.

The application has angered consumer and anti-poverty groups.

They say the increase hurts people who can't afford cellphone or landline service.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre is urging people to contact the CRTC to oppose the increase.

"We don't think Bell's proposed pay phone charge increase is right," the centre says in a flyer urging opposition to the hike.

The companies, however, say without the extra money, pay phones will disappear faster.

"The new $1 coin will have different characteristics from the current ones and so will not be recognized by the current coin validation systems," they say in their application to the regulator.

"Permitting the companies to recover the costs associated with upgrading their pay phones to accept the new $1 coins through rate increases for local pay phone calls will also assist the companies in slowing the decommissioning of pay phones as profitability will be more likely."

They say pay phone use has been steadily eroded by increasing cell phone usage.