Goodbye to the phone booth 93 years later: they register a weekly call

Years ago it was rare not to see people waiting to get into a phone booth, but now with an average of a weekly call and a use that is diluted year by year, the 14,824 telephone boxes that are deployed throughout Spain will cease to be a mandatory universal service at the “turn of summer”, seven years before its first centenary, in 2028.

Telephone booth photography / EFE

As of the approval of the new state Telecommunications Law, “in September or October”, both phone booths and directories will no longer be considered as a mandatory universal service, although “will surely stay“in operation until December 31, the Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructures, Roberto Sánchez, assures EFE.

Telefónica is the operator that is obliged to maintain this service after a contest called by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation and which is usually left deserted. No operator bids for this service. The last award was two years ago, in December 2019, and will expire on December 31, 2021. “What will not be done will be to renew,” explains the secretary.

Telefónica does not reveal its plans to dismantle the booths, although it reminds EFE of a pilot project it is carrying out in Andalusia, where These structures are used as charging points or tourist information points. At the moment, he does not reveal if this will be his future.

According to data provided by Telefónica, in Spain, at the end of 2020, there were 14,824 telephone booths, They registered an average of 0.17 calls per day, which means an average weekly call. To get an idea of ​​the decline, the 0.17 calls a day mean reducing by more than half the average that had been registered just over two years ago, and which was already low: 0.37 calls a day, that is, one use every three days, according to data from Telefónica. The irruption of mobile telephony has been the main cause of the fall into disuse of these structures. In 2006, more mobile phone lines were registered than inhabitants.

In fact, more than 88% of the population admit that they have never used a cabin, which disappeared many years ago in countries neighboring Spain, according to data from the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC), which refer to data from the 2014 Eurobarometer. Telefónica does not disclose the cost of maintaining these booths, although surely it is well above 4.5 million euros per year if the latest data from the CNMC are also taken into account.

The regulatory body, which reviews the conditions for the provision of the service, published data from 2016, which reflected that the cost of maintaining these structures was 4.5 million euros and that this had multiplied by ten in four years . Thus, according to the CNMC, while the cost of these structures in 2012 was 399 million euros, in 2013 it amounted to 1,202; 1,328 in 2014; 2,070 in 2015 and 4,518 in 2016.

The universal service, included in the Telecommunications Law, guarantees that all citizens have access to a series of services regardless of its geographical location, with a certain quality and at an affordable price. This means that populations with more than 1,000 inhabitants must until now have at least one cabin installed, and an additional one for every 3,000 inhabitants. That the booths disappear does not mean that the public telephones disappear, says the Secretary of State.

On the other hand, and also within the compulsory universal service, there is the give access to the public electronic communications network from a fixed location with broadband capacity at a connection speed of at least 1 megabit per second (Mbps).

This obligation will also change with the new law, which will not specify any speed, although it will point out that it must be adequate to offer a set of basic services such as email, access to platforms, etc. A later regulation will be the one that details the mandatory speed, according to Sánchez, who affirms that in this way it will be easier to adapt it to the times, which is established by law.

The draft Telecommunications Law, which, for example, also equates numbered services to unnumbered services, was released to public information last September and has received 43 allegations, which are in the study phase, according to Sánchez. Equalizing these services means that everyone must pay taxes, of the order of 1 euro for every 1,000 of turnover if more than 1 million euros is entered per year. This for the moment will not affect operators such as WhatsApp or Telegram, because until now they are free, explains the Secretary of State.

Source: LA INFORMACIÓN – Lo último by

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