LAWRENCE V. STEVENS
In previous numbers of this magazine have appeared details of telephone instrument construction calculated to give the amateur a clear and concise idea of the apparatus and theories upon which they operate.
It is now the intention of the writer to enter the domain of exchange construction, treating of the mutual exchange in which telephone service in established between 25 or 30 residences, stores and factories of a small agricultural or manufacturing community, the lines centralizing in a manually operated switch board located at the general store of the community.
There are three phases of this telephone proposition, namely the financial, the constructive and the maintaining problems, and of each the writer is disposed to to treat in a connected series of articles dealing with each phase in proper order. Throughout the country, especially in the Middle and Southern States, this exchange proposition furnishes an exceptional opportunity for an active association of local capital and labor, the plant being self-sustaining from the start with favorable prospects of regular dividends after the first year of service.
It is to be understood that this exchange proposition deals entirely with one community and not with the -general network of toll and long distance lines covering the territory. In years to come, connections may be made with other towns and other companies, a fixed charge being made for "trunking" between exchanges, but this feature is a matter which will adjust itself with the development of the plant and requires no consideration at this time.
An ideal way to describe the establishment of thisexchange is to enter at once upon the proposition in an imaginary community of 200 residents, where the inhabitants are enterprising and willing to co-operate in furthering the interests of a local enterprise.
Jefferson is the township's name and the location is in a State of the Middle West. The principal pursuit is farming; that is, poultry raising and fruitgrowing, although there are several general stores, a blacksmith and carriagesmith and two new factories near the railroad devoted to manufacture of woodenware and hardware specialties, also an elevator and hotel.
There are no large cities near Jefferson, and the town itself covers an expansive area. The annual increase in population averages 40. An outline map of the township is here given for future reference during construction, and it will be seen that many the houses are quite far apart and it may be presumed that is lation is quite complete in the winter time. The stores seem to be centered in the heart of each settlement, and the Post Office is kept in the largest general store at the Centre.
Into this community come the canvassers of the large and rival telephone companies of the West, but their propositions met with little favor from the inhabitants, principally because of the high rates quoted and also because the town, being self-sustaining, has but little use for telephone connection with such outer points.
The Jefferson Telephone Company, as a new home industry, possess a field of its own. It purposes to furnish day service between the hours of 7 A. M. and 8.30 P. M. at a rate of $1.50 per month for unlimited number of calls, 5 cents a call for subscribers listed under the limited rate, a charge of 10 cents per call for a message taken over the wire at the central office and delivered by messenger to a non-subscriber, and 15 cents a call for messages sent from the central office to pay station to any subscriber of the exchange. It is to be expected that most of the subscribers will take the unlimited service, thereby dispensing with charge accounts and considerable bookkeeping, but .t will be found that there are citizens who want the service, but would not use more than a dozen calls per month, so to provide for this class of customers, accounts are to be kept at the special rate of 5 cents per call.
In the contract which the company makes with the citizens, all apparatus for the first 25 stations is to be purchased by joint and equal contributions by the subscribers, said apparatus to be furnished to future subscribers at a retail price; which, of course, is an inducement to get connected while the construction proceedings are under way. The company retains the sole right to provide the instruments to be used upon its lines; a very wise move at the outset, because uniformity in apparatus means successful transmission and a minimum of complaints.
Criticism may be made of the policy of charging a low rate for service and also charging for the instruments, when in some communities there is a fixed sum for the yearly rental or quarterly rental as the case maybe, and the apparatus furnished free. It has been found that a monthly rental is more practicable than a quarterly, because the charge of $ 1.50 per month is more easily collected, and in case a delinquent subscriber does not settle within a month the service may be cut off at the pole without unpleasant argument at the subscriber's house, the wiring instruments remaining on the subscriber's premises as a silent reminder of the unpaid debt and a strong continual and unfailing argument in favor of re-establishment of the service. It will be found that once installed, the telephone will never be ordered disconnected except for a good cause, such as poor service, and under proper management there will be no poor service.
To this end, while the Jefferson Telephone Company depends entirely upon the good will and financial assistance of the first 25 subscribers, it will be found advisable to choose one of the number to manage the enterprise, and that the manager be given full power to manage and maintain the affairs of the company absolutely during his term of office, the other 24 subscib-ers keeping entirely aloof from all controversies and disagreements arising between the company and the public.
In the next article will be described the central exchange, the personnel of the first 25 subscribers and the arrangements for new business, with a general statement of first costs of equipment.