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Phone boxes could disappear

An official telecoms watchdog advises government to remove a law requiring a public phone box service

TELEPHONE boxes could disappear from the streets over the next few years after official telecoms watchdog Arcep advised the government to change a law requiring them to be provided.

At present any commune of more than 1,000 inhabitants is required to have a phone box.

The designated provider, Orange, has more than 100,000 around France, of which 40,000 are in place due to this law. It has started dismantling others, planning to finish by the end of 2016.

The agreement for provision of the service, officially called la publiphonie (public telephony), is up for renewal by February 24, 2014.

Arcep says the rules should be reviewed before then, with a view to axing the obligation. Should that happen, Orange is expected to dismantle all the phones.

Arcep said in a statement: “Major investments would have to be made over the next few years to maintain the phones in working order, while a growing number of them are no longer used at all.”

Orange states that on average its boxes are used for just three minutes a day, mostly by a handful of tourists and by people whose mobile batteries have run down.

Arcep also suggested that Orange receive more payment for phones it maintains over and above requirements, which could help it cover dismantling costs.

The costs include taking boxes away and recycling the materials and this is done by a Véolia subsidiary.

Photo:Rüdiger Wölk

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