The Government plans to approve next Friday, in the last Council of Ministers of the year, the royal decree that in all likelihood ends 90 years of telephone booths in Spain, with which these public telephones, already in disuse, would begin to disappear from our streets starting in January.
The approximately 16,000 cabins that remain today are four times less than the 65,000 that came to be at the end of the 1990s, its years of greatest splendor, although if you take into account also the existing telephones in private enclosures such as airports and hospitals, the maximum figure would be around 100,000.
Telefónica is obliged until December 31 to provide this service to be designated directly by the previous Executive, after the last contest called for lack of interest of the operators.
The Government has to decide on its future before the end of the year, either abolish the universal telecommunications service the obligation to maintain a sufficient supply of public payphones or extend it for another year, something considered "very unlikely" by sources in the sector. And if it pronounces in favor of eliminating the obligation, as of January 1, there will no longer be contests to award the service and Telefónica will have free access to remove them from public roads, reports Efe.
Public telephones are part of the universal service with which it is guaranteed that all citizens have access to telecommunications services regardless of their geographical location, with a certain quality and an affordable price.
This implies bringing the telecommunications network to any point in the country, including unprofitable areas, having telephone booths, telephone directories and adapted services for people with disabilities and, since 2012, access to broadband.
In the case of cabins, it guarantees that there must be at least one public telephone in each municipality of 1,000 or more inhabitants, which would add one more for every 3,000 inhabitants.
The previous Executive was in favor of eliminating that obligation related to the cabins in a draft royal decree that referred to the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) to prepare a report on the matter. And in him The CNMC, as it had done on other occasions, said that it saw no reason to continue providing these services as part of the universal service.
The more than predictable end of the telephone booths comes 90 years after it was installed in Viana Park, in the Retiro Park in Madrid, in 1928, the first public telephone in Spain.
The fall of its use, in parallel to the extension of mobile telephony, and the increasing cost of maintenance, in part because of the vandalism they suffer, have influenced the slow decline experienced by the cabins.
According to Telefónica, half of the current cabins do not take a single call and, according to a study by the CNMC, 88% of Spaniards have never used a booth.
In addition to the booths, the rule approved by the Council of Ministers, which could take the form of a royal decree law, could eliminate other universal service obligations, such as the preparation of printed and electronic telephone directories and the telephone consultation service on telephone numbers. subscribers.
Some European countries, such as France, Belgium and Denmark have also eliminated some of these elements of universal service and the European Code of Electronic Communications does not include any of the three benefits as part of the universal service.
According to the latest data from the CNMC, the cost of telephone booths of universal service increased by 55.8% in 2015 compared to 2014, to exceed 2 million euros. This cost has not stopped growing in the last four years: in 2014 it was 1.3 million; in 2013, of 1.2 million and in 2012 of 398,998 euros.