A new role for phone booths

Telephone booths in Valencia’s Plaza del Ayuntamiento (Juan Ignacio Alfonso)

VALENCIA’S remaining 200 telephone booths could be given a new lease of life following talks between Telefónica and the city council this morning.

A new law, which may come into force in the coming months, means the phone company will be able to remove the 200 or so remaining phone booths located throughout the city as they are no longer considered essential. Now that almost everyone has a mobile, public telephones have become unnecessary and the familiar booths are often vandalised, covered in graffiti or smothered in advertising posters for concerts or circuses, so the easiest solution could be just to remove them.

However, the city council has been in talks with Telefónica to find an alternative solution to breathe new life into them. The ideas proposed so far include using them to offer smart-city services such as recharging points for mobiles or other electronic devices or installing touchscreens with information for citizens. Another idea being floated is to use them to strengthen the coverage of public Wifi as part of the strategic plan against the digital divide or even installing sensors to measure, levels of atmospheric or noise pollution and feed the information back to the council.

Councillor for Digital Agenda, Pere Fuset, met with Telefónica’s director of Public Administration, José Manuel Plaza, on Wednesday morning. Fuset explained: “Valencia is already studying how to take advantage of the void that will be left by the anachronistic booths to move forward in modernisation by offering possible smart city services to citizens.

“We want to explore all technical and legal possibilities so that Valencia can once again become a benchmark in digital transformation aimed at improving people’s quality of life.”

Councillor for Public Spaces, Lucia Beamud, said: “We have been working for some time on informing Telefónica of all the booths that were a nuisance, especially because of their location, and many have been removed in recent years. We have been working to collect various complaints from residents and we have passed them all on to the telephone company which, to all intents and purposes, has been removing them.”

Beamud added that the city council has been working towards making it as easy as possible for pedestrians to walk on the pavements and some booths have ended up becoming inappropriate elements of the city that make it difficult for the elderly or people with mobility problems.

Spain is not alone in looking for solutions for redundant phone booths, in the UK the iconic red phone boxes posed a similar problem and in many places alternative uses have been found, such as converting them into a book exchange which has been a popular option in many villages.

Clearly a book exchange is not an option for Valencia’s booths, but what do you think should be done with the redundant phone cabins?

A UK village phone box now converted into a Book Exchange

One thought

  1. Sensible use.
    Pity they are not as attractive as the London telephone boxes

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