The era of telephone booths in the Czech Republic has finally come to an end. On Thursday, workers in Hlubyně in the Příbram region removed the last one that was still in use in the country. The Czech Telecommunications Office (CTU) decided last year that the state would stop subsidising payphones.
The operator, O2, does not want to continue operating them in that case. According to the operator, mobile phones have replaced payphones over time. The last time someone called from a payphone in Hlubyně was two years ago. Payphones have been in use in Czech towns and villages for 110 years.
Municipalities have kept some of the boxes and found other uses for them. In many places, for example, so-called book booths have been created. Others are awaiting environmental disposal, according to Jan Hruška, O2’s chief technology officer.
As recently as last year, there were 1,150 phone booths in the Czech Republic. But by the end of the year, the devices went silent, and the operators gradually dismantled them. The last to go was a public payphone in Hlubyně. According to Mayor Petr Boukal (non-aligned), the village with 150 inhabitants became famous thanks to the previous payphones in the Czech Republic.
The first payphone was located in Old Town Square.
The booths had their biggest boom in the Czech Republic at the turn of the millennium, when 30 000 stood on Czech streets. Since then, their number has only declined. In recent years, people have been calling for them less than once a month, on average, and the boxes have become a target for vandals. According to Hana Továrková, chairwoman of the CTU Council, the public payphone service had become a burden, and subsidizing it was no longer worthwhile. She claimed that the emperor’s lords’ service could not keep up with the fast pace of modern technology, which will soon be joined by the full use of 5G networks.
Although the first telephone lines were introduced in the country in 1881 and the first public exchange was opened in Prague a year later, it was not until 1911 that the first telephone box, later known as a public payphone, appeared on the streets of Prague. According to some sources, the first payphone appeared in Old Town Square. At the same time, according to contemporary photographs, others were located in the arcade of the Sternberg Palace before the First World War.