Salisbury's Community Telephone Network

 

Let's benefit our community, save endangered city centre furniture and create conversations.

With public phone boxes disappearing from our streets at an increasing rate, I've been thinking of projects such as the Phone Box Pirate Radio to repurpose the boxes in a bid to generate interest and save them from extinction. 

But what if we could integrate this project with the original telephone hardware once the phone sets have been retired, offering a sort of Dial-A-Radio facility? Then, what if other services could be made available such as free phone calls and voicemail facilities for the people who really need them? Further still, what if we could integrate into the original hardware saving the iconic high street furniture from disappearing, offer a vital service for free to those in need whilst offering an artistic and community outlet for all to enjoy, including pirate radio? Then I say we have a project in the making that potentially benefits the community on a massive scale.

I fully imagine this project to continuously evolve but care needs to be taken to avoid scope creep, snowballing out of control and turning into a Frankenstein's monster. Start slow, small steps and remain true to the main objectives. Here's the initial plan with available options reserved for art projects.

  • Option 1: Free phone calls for registered members
  • Option 2: Free mailboxes for registered members
  • Option 3: Help and support lines
  • Option 4: Chat with Operator AI (Watch my TEDx talk)
  • Option 5: Pirate radio
  • Option 6: Phone a random Salisbury phone box
  • Option 7: Available
  • Option 8: Available
  • Option 9: Available

I thought creating a round robin of public phone box numbers would be a fun option to include (Option 6) and one that uses information provided by one helpful individual who provided the numbers of all public phone box numbers in Salisbury (I have spot-checked a number of them to ensure the list is correct) after I wrote about how difficult it was to find the locations of every box in and around the city. 

Are there similar projects out there?

Yes there is. Over in America there is the Futel community telephone network that provides free telephone calls to those who need it. This project also allows artists to take advantage of their infrastructure and for that reason the project is able to be funded by arts grants.

So what help is needed?

There's a lot of work to be done. There is a hackathon competition running throughout the month of July that I am going to use to springboard the idea, test a variety of solutions and develop a prototype. But at this early stage I would like to reach out to people who would be interested in the project. 

Please do get in touch here if you...

  • Would like to say Hello!
  • Would like to discuss further ideas
  • Have an old payphone to donate as a test rig
  • Would like to chat to the Operator AI to help train it
  • Can offer help with the setting up of virtual mailboxes
  • Are an artist interested in occupying one of available lines

Thank you!

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