TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Telephone Rate Complaints Not New

Telephone Rate Complaints Not New
15 Mar 2007 10:40:15 -0700

Complaints that telephone rates are too high are nothing new.

The New York Times of 11/29/1910 has an article about complaints over
charges for calls between Manhattan and Brooklyn or Queens. At that
time a local call within Manhattan or to the Bronx was 5 cents, but
calls to Brooklyn or Queens were 10 cents. The people in Brooklyn and
Queens felt they should be charged the same as calls to the Bronx.
The phone company countered that its rate of return for those areas
was too low.

Note that 5 cents back then is roughly $2.25 today. I believe in
those days all calls were charged.

At that time about 8% of the people in NYC had a phone, the highest in
the country.

Also, exactly 100 years ago the NYT had an article that a family used
the telephone to call police which helped catch burglars breaking into
their house. The article said "a message was flashed to the patromen
on the beat". I don't know if cops had corner call boxes back then to
check in and get directives. Until radios were in widespread use by
the 1960s, cops had to use such corner boxes. Cities maintained their
own phone system.

On 8/18/1903 the NYT reported that the NYC police dept will rent
telephone service for 661 police call boxes on the streets for $20,800
per year. The phone company will maintain the system.

So as early as 1903 there were such boxes.

An article in 1907 reported of a wireless device to summon policeman
tested in San Francisco. If a patrolman was needed, a radio signal
would reach a receiver in his helmet and would ring a bell in his
pocket. He would then call in for instructions. There seemed to be a
great deal of doubt whether this device actually worked; it does seem
to be beyond the state of the radio art of 1907. But it's interesting
that they were thinking of the function of pagers 100 years ago.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The earliest radio for police operated
on the standard broadcast band; I think they were one-way talk out to
officers and were on 1620 KC, where officers could be given direct
instructions over the air without them having to call in for details.

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