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
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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Heritage Community Foundation and
Telephone Historical Centre All Rights Reserved