Telstra wins federal court payphone fight
Telstra has won a court fight against major Australian councils over plans to install billboards on its payphones.
But the telco still needs permission to use them for advertising anything other than the its standard phone services.
Telstra's bid to install 1800 new phone booths with large digital billboards across the country was blocked by Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane city councils, who said it was a cash grab which would clutter already-crowded pavements.
The Federal Court on Tuesday sided with the telco giant, allowing it to install the phone booths but saying any third-party advertisements required council approval.
More than 30 of the upgraded payphone booths with features including wi-fi were installed in Melbourne's CBD in 2018. However the City of Melbourne last year knocked back an application by advertising giant JCDecaux to run ads on 81 more.
Meanwhile, City of Sydney councillor Craig Chung dismissed the telco's plans for some of its 16,000-odd payphones as a "cash grab".
The Federal Court's ruling means planning permits are required for advertising - other than that related to the supply of standard telephone services - on the booths.
Telstra said the decision allows it to go ahead with upgrading payphones so they remained "useful and relevant".
"We welcome the clarity it provides at a national level for the payphone upgrade project, our first major redesign of the payphone since 1983," a spokesman said.
The City of Melbourne said it was committed to defending the CBD's footpaths from clutter.
"We believe the number and location of these booths are currently being decided on the basis of advertising exposure rather than customer need," councillor Nicholas Reece said.
He added any applications for advertising on the billboards would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
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