Learning out Loud in Milwaukee, WI

Open source payphones in Philly and Portland

Where I work, we have a creed and in it we say that open source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. The Philtel program and Futel in Portland seem to exemplify that idea.

The pay phone was an important part of connectivity infrastructure when I was a kid and long before. It’s hard to remember that until a few years ago, to make a basic phone call, you only needed 25 cents. That was handy if you didn’t have a cell phone, if you forgot it, or wanted to make calls privately. I know they saved me more than a few times when I missed a bus or needed to be picked up from school.

Today, pay phones are gone and 97% of Americans have some kind of cell phone. New York City removed it’s last one this year. Sure, they were removed for lack of demand, but imagine if we thought about them as public goods instead of capitalist commodities. That goal isn’t stated quite explicitly but free access to public phones is a good first step.