NEW YORK - Verizon's payphones pulled a Clark Kent trick of their own during the blackout last Thursday, morphing into the superheroes of urgent, reliable communications for millions of stranded and stressed Northeasterners.
According to data released by Verizon today, payphone use in Manhattan that day was nearly 3.5 times higher than normal and almost 2.5 times higher in the rest of New York City. Payphone use in other areas hit by the power failure was about 1.5 times higher than normal.
After the heavy usage on Thursday and Friday, Verizon dispatched more than 100 technicians over the weekend to service the nearly 20,000 payphones in the metropolitan New York area to ensure uninterrupted service. When the payphones' coin collection boxes are full, outbound calling is suspended.
"Payphones are often taken for granted and even considered old fashioned in a high-tech telecommunications era, but it was clear last week that they provide convenient, reliable service during an emergency," said Paul V. Francischetti, vice president of marketing and business development for Verizon Public Communications Group. "Tens of thousands of people used our payphones during the blackout to contact and reassure friends and families and to make alternative arrangements to get home."
Although the increase in payphone calling volume generated more revenue, precise figures are not yet available.
Francischetti said that the heavy use of payphones during the blackout also validated Verizon's business strategy for payphones.
"We've been operating on the conviction that there will always be a market for payphones, no matter how successful wireless communications becomes," he said. "If we continue to manage our costs and enhance our services, we can keep the payphones in place, ready to support callers who can't get to a home or office phone or can't use wireless.
"We believe there will always be a market for payphones and we intend to serve it and serve it well."
Verizon operates more than 350,000 payphones in 38 states. The public communications group also manages Verizon's prepaid calling card business.
A Fortune 10 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 137.6 million access line equivalents and 34.6 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is the third largest long-distance carrier for U.S. consumers, with 14.6 million long-distance lines, and the company is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. With approximately $67 billion in annual revenues and 221,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to the Americas, Europe and Asia. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.