LONDON (AP) — Britain’s telecommunications regulator says thousands of iconic red phone booths will be protected from removal under new rules. The public payphone boxes may appear obsolete relics to many in an age of ubiquitous smart mobile phones, but regulator Ofcom said they can still be a “lifeline” for people in need. The regulator is proposing rules to prevent 5,000 phone boxes in areas with poor mobile coverage from being closed down. Ofcom said Tuesday that boxes in areas considered accident or suicide hotspots would also be eligible for protection. Phone company BT says more than 6,500 unused call boxes have so far been converted into mini community libraries, art galleries or storage units for public defibrillators.