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Google Turning NYC Pay Phones Into Wi-Fi Hotspots

by Brandon Russell | July 22, 2014July 22, 2014 10:00 am PST

A disused pay phone is covered in snow in Times Square in New York

Google and several other companies want to turn the post modern pay phone monuments erected across New York City into Wi-Fi hotspots, finally giving these time capsules a second chance at life. At a conference this past May, the search giant was among a group of about 50 attendees that are set to make bids for the proposal. Bloomberg said that bids are due today.

The project would completely replace pay phone kiosks with redesigned Wi-Fi booths, which will also provide advertising and phone services, according to NYC’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. With over 7,300 pay phones in the city, whichever company wins the bid will have plenty of coverage across the city’s five buroughs. Real life is sounding more and more like Watch_Dogs everyday.

When explaining the purpose of such a project, the city’s website stated the obvious: “The widespread adoption of mobile devices reduces the overall need for public telephones, yet not everyone owns a mobile phone, and not everyone who owns one has connectivity at all times.”

If the project does move forward, the proposal is to allow folks to login once, and then stay connected throughout the day wherever these hotspots are available. The hope is that people can seamlessly connect—and stay connected—as they travel around the city, ensuring they always have access to the Internet and other services no matter where they are. For areas that don’t get very good coverage, the prevalence of Wi-Fi can make a huge difference.

Other companies that were involved in the May meeting consisted of Cisco, IBM, and Samsung, among others. In a city the size of New York City, I can only imagine the kind of congestion people will experience. Though, to be fair, this isn’t exactly a new idea; a similar pilot program was launched all the way back in 2012, bringing residents and traveling the joys of free Wi-Fi access.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...