A company which was planning on replacing dozens of phone boxes in Brighton with controversial communication hubs has gone into administration.
InLink won planning permission for the hubs in June, despite concerns the hubs are advertising by stealth and have attracted drug dealers in other British cities.
But following trouble getting planning permission for the hubs elsewhere in the country, notably in Westminster where the council fought the proposals in court, the company is now in financial trouble.
It’s not clear what will now happen, but InLink’s partner BT said it was working to continue the service.
The company also faced opposition from privacy campaigners, which said by tracking phone data it was building a “military-grade street-level sensor network”.
The booths feature free phone calls, USB charging and fast Wi-Fi access, along with video advertising.
A BT spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed that our partner, InLink Limited, has entered into administration.
“We are working hard with the administrator to agree a way forward to ensure the continuity of the InLink service so that the public can continue to enjoy the wide range of free services provided.”
BT has an obligation to maintain a certain number of phone boxes, but as they are no longer widely used, this costs them £6million a year.
InLink’s solution was to make the hubs profitable by selling advertising on them – an idea which several other companies also enthusiastically embraced.
According to tech site The Register, if every application made to Westminster Council in 2018 by companies such as InLink had been approved, there would be a phone booth every 15 metres along Edgeware Road.
Other councils also turned down applications on the basis it would increase street clutter, and over concerns the free call service was being abused by drug dealers.
However, BT offered to remove two phone booths for every hub installed – and InLink reassured Brighton planners it was tackling the drug dealing with new algorithms.
If no rescuer for InLink is found and the hubs are not installed, the permission will lapse after three years.
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