Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Phonebox closures

More than a dozen Lothian (Scotland) phone boxes have not been used in a year which has prompted a phone company to call for a regulator's rules to be changed. British Telecom (BT) wants to be able to remove redundant phone boxes, which each cost £1,000 a year in upkeep. There are 14 disused public phones in the Lothians.

The company has asked the regulator Ofcom to review its obligation to keep the phones up and running. Campaigners said it was another blow for rural areas. They said that while the phones may not be used regularly, they provided a vital service in areas with poor mobile reception.

BT - which has an obligation to provide enough phone boxes - said it did intend to protect the pay phone network. The company said it would consult with local communities about which boxes would be removed.

There are just under 6,000 phone boxes in Scotland, of which 223 did not host any calls last year.

The 14 phone boxes in Lothian which were not used during that period are in Bathgate, Bo'ness, Dalkeith, Haddington, Kirknewton, Linlithgow, Penicuik, Ratho, South Queensferry, West Calder and West Linton.

A BT spokesman said: "Payphone usage has been declining over the last decade and usage has halved over the last three years. BT has been looking for new revenue streams, and has to continue to look at ways of taking cost out of the business, including, where feasible, removing unprofitable payphones from areas of low usage. We will continue to talk to Ofcom about the ways in which payphones are deployed."

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