If José Luis López Vázquez wanted to lock himself in a telephone booth to star in Antonio Mercero's iconic Spanish film, it would be much more difficult now than in 1972, when the medium-length film was shot. With the advent of mobile telephony, telephone booths have been gradually disappearing from the national geography and those that still exist are barely used. They are hardly made 1.15 daily calls for each of the 16,600 that still exist, according to Telefónica data. So scarce is its use and so expensive maintenance -the Spanish operator loses between two and five million euros each year for this service, according to several reports- that the Council of Ministers will sign his death sentence next Friday. It will be through a decree-law that will eliminate the consideration of the cabins as a universal telecommunications service, what, in practice, will involve its dismantling from next January 1. The operators have made clear several times their disinterest to maintain this deficit service if it is not by obligation.
With your decision, The Executive will respond to the request of the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) to eliminate booths, guides and information on numbers of subscribers as a universal service, since it considers them as services that have fallen "in disuse" and "There are no current market reasons to continue guaranteeing its provision as part of the universal service", the regulator said in a recent resolution. Other European countries such as France, Belgium or Denmark have also gradually eliminated some of these services.
The government decree will end a story that began in 1928, when the first public telephone was opened in Viana Park, in the Parque del Retiro in Madrid. In its most splendid years, At the end of the 90s, there were more than 65,000 cabins throughout the country. However, the take-off of mobile telephony, together with the increase in expenses due to vandalism -from around 400,000 euros in 2012 to more than two million in 2015-, have gradually reduced their number. It remains to be seen now whether Telefónica, the current contractor of the service, withdraws the existing booths or opts to give them an alternative use as countries such as Japan have done, which have converted them into fish tanks.