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Alberta's Telephone Heritage
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Toll Revenue Issue

The City of Edmonton had been at odds with the provincial government over telephone toll revenue since the early 1920s, when both sides argued that each had a greater responsibility to aid the other in matters of system maintenance.

Moreover, Alberta Government Telephones was responsible not only for maintaining long-distance lines used by the citizens of Edmonton, but also for collecting long-distance charges related to these accounts. This proved costly for AGT, as it was entitled to collect long-distance charges only. People in arrears to them could continue with the city utility regardless.

This problem continued through the 1960s, when AGT was hemorrhaging tens of thousands of dollars a year in sour accounts. The utility’s only recourse was to place a no-toll tone on the telephones of delinquent customers. This would alert long-distance operators, who connected such calls, that the individual was overdue.

Customers could easily circumvent this measure by using a neighbour’s telephone and charging the long-distance call to their home accounts. The operator, not having access to billing information on the caller, would make the connection.

Other customers opened new accounts under false names.

Naturally, officials at AGT grew dissatisfied with this relationship, particularly as the provincial utility either owned or paid rent on all the equipment involved in connecting these calls.

The Edmonton municipal government decided to sweeten the air through an ordinance—Bylaw 1915—that allowed Edmonton Telephones to cut off service to subscribers with delinquent provincial accounts where AGT had supplied a warning letter to the customer.

Nonetheless, the two companies continued their argument right into the 1970s because the City believed it should have access to some of the long-distance revenue.


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