BT to call time on 30,000 phone boxes that don't pay their way

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The Independent Online

BT is considering removing 30,000 phone boxes from Britain's streets, as the number of people using its service dwindles.

BT is considering removing 30,000 phone boxes from Britain's streets, as the number of people using its service dwindles.

The former telecoms monopoly is facing mounting losses in providing payphones because of the explosion in mobile use. It is now reviewing whether it can disconnect 30,000 unprofitable street phones from its 72,000-strong portfolio.

Clive Ansell, BT's group strategy director, said: "We are not saying, 'throw them all out of the window'. We are looking for a balanced debate. But 30,000 need to be reviewed."

Under its licence, BT must provide a universal telecoms service, which covers the provision of payphones. But the company is lobbying the Government to relax the rules.

In a report sent to telecoms and media regulator Ofcom last week, BT said that the growth of the mobile phone "has resulted in the dramatic decline in the use of public payphones, questioning the continued need for the service and greatly increasing the cost to BT of sustaining it".

The company also wants the Government to consider alternatives to outright removal, such as new ways of funding the provision of phone boxes.

Controversially, BT has lobbied MPs on the idea that mobile phone companies should contribute towards the upkeep of its payphones.

Mr Ansell said: "It makes sense to open up the debate and see if there can be a fairer allocation of the costs. Such funding could come from those who want BT to provide payphones where the use is below commercial levels - such as local authorities - or it could come from the telecoms industry, in particular the mobile phone firms."

Despite calling for changes, BT has promised to safeguard 12,000 payphones that are classed as being an essential community service.

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