Why the UK Is Keeping Thousands of Red Phone Booths, Even Though Everyone Has Cellphones

With cell phones pushing phone booths around the world into the endangered relic territory, the UK has deemed that thousands of its iconic red phone booths will be protected. British telecommunications regulator Ofcom has proposed new rules to save about 5,000 of the country’s 21,000 booths due to the fact that they’re still in use. Ofcom believes that the phone booths are essential and could actually be a lifeline in a time of great need. They also want to make sure that people without mobile coverage — often in rural areas — can still make calls. From May of 2019 to May 2020, nearly 150,000 calls were made from payphones to emergency services, and an additional 45,000 were made to other helplines, such as suicide hotlines. Phone booths that have been taken out of service are now being repurposed to do things like store public defibrillators, act as tiny book-borrowing libraries, and even host art displays.