When was the last time you used a phone booth?
In 2000, there were approximately 30,000 telephone booths across the Czech Republic; in 2007, the number was 25,000. Today, only about a quarter of those remain across the country’s streets.
The advent of mobile phone technology has lead to the once-traditional phone booth becoming nearly obsolete. As you walk down Prague’s streets, you might wonder who uses these in 2017.
But operator o2, who still owns most of the phone booths in the country, wants to keep the few that remain around. And they have a plan to do so: by altering their basic function.
According to iDnes.cz, the change is already happening, with phone booths across Prague being transformed into information terminals, recharging stations, and wifi hotspots.
Some have even been turned into miniature libraries, where books are borrowed and returned in an unmonitored process.
“Our company has supported the creation of so-called knihobudek (book boxes),” says o2 spokesperson Lucie Pecháčková.
“Anyone can come in and borrow a book, take it, or exchange it for another. The whole system is free and unattended.”
When an alternate use for the telephone booth cannot be found, however, it will be dismantled and the parts recycled. Currently, there are 7,360 phone booths across the Czech Republic, and the number is still dwindling.
But despite the drastic reduction in numbers, the traditional phone booth is not quite obsolete – especially in smaller villages or areas without consistent mobile coverage.
“Be aware that, especially in small villages and in places without sufficient mobile signal coverage, the public payphone is an important means of calling for help,” said Martin Drtin from the Czech Telecommunications Office (ČTÚ).
“That’s why they will not be left without phone booths for the foreseeable future.”
The phone booth isn’t only an endangered species in the Czech Republic. In the coming years, half of the UK’s iconic phone booths will be removed, with operators citing insufficient funds to justify maintaining them.