New York City looks to turn pay phones into free Wi-Fi spots

New York City wants to replace the city's 7,000 or so pay phones into Wi-Fi hubs. Credit: Colourbox
New York City wants to turn its 7,000 or so pay phones into Wi-Fi hubs.
Credit: Colourbox

New York City wants to turn its more than 7,000 pay phones into free Wi-Fi hubs.

The de Blasio administration revealed on Thursday that it plans to ask for proposals on converting the existing network of public pay telephones into a citywide wireless network.

Even before proposals come in, the city said it stands ready to make sure whichever plan comes out on top can be distributed equally throughout the five boroughs within four years.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the statement that the plan, which would be overseen by the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, finally answers the question of what to do with the mostly obsolete pay phone system.

“By using a historic part of New York’s street fabric, we can significantly enhance public availability of increasingly vital broadband access, invite new and innovative digital services, and increase revenue to the city — all at absolutely no cost to taxpayers,” de Blasio said in a statement.

The kiosks would at a minimum offer free Wi-Fi within an 85-foot minimum radius of each structure. They would still also offer phone services, including free 911 and 311 calls, as well as emergency information notifications.

Eventually, the city hopes other services might include cell phone charging stations and touch-screens information hotspots, and encourage proposals to use solar energy to power the kiosks.

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria



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