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‘Billboards masquerading as phone boxes’: Council rejects Telstra’s plan to install more public phones

The City of Melbourne has rejected a Telstra bid to put up 81 flashing advertising billboards on CBD public phones, saying the telco was trying to exploit a legal loophole to profit from public space.

The Age reports the lucrative digital billboards can earn the company as much as $8000 a week.

Cr Nicholas Reece, chair of City of Melbourne’s Planning portfolio, told Ross and John the majority of Melbourne’s population has no need for the phone boxes.

“I haven’t used one in the last 10 years,” he said.

“We’re asking why do we need so many given 90 per cent of people have mobile phones and why do they need to be so big?

“These new structures are 2.7m high, 1.2m wide, they’ve got a 75 inch LCD screen strapped to the back of them.

“We think these are billboards masquerading as phone boxes.”

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“Telstra is saying back to us that under the federal telecommunications act they don’t need a planning permit to build that structure, because these are what they define as low-impact facilities,” he added.