The government program aims to convert a number of derelict, unused or otherwise obsolete pay phones dotting the city into useful Wi-Fi hotspots and has started operations in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn with more planned for the Bronx and Staten Island, reports the Los Angeles Times.
"We are taking an existing infrastructure and leveraging it up to provide more access to information," Rahul Merchant, the city's chief information officer, told the Associated Press.
As cell phones further saturate the U.S. market, New York City's 12,000 pay phone kiosks go largely unused and telecoms are beginning to slow upkeep of the locations. Instead of paying for a slowly dying technology, telephone operators have joined forces with the city to divert funds toward the Wi-Fi conversion which cost approximately $2,000 per installation. To justify the added expense operators hope the project will increase advertising revenue.
In the conversion process, a wireless router is added to the existing kiosk hardware and residents can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi access 24 hours a day without charge, though the range of the routers is limited to a few feet.
New York City's pay phone Wi-Fi kiosk pilot project. | Source: NYCGOV's tumblr
List of pilot program pay phone kiosks:
- Brooklyn Heights-Cobble Hill: 545 Albee Square and 2 Smith Street
- Astoria: 30-94 Steinway Street
- SoHo: 402 West Broadway
- Fur-Flower District: 458 Seventh Avenue
- Theater District-Clinton: 28 West 48th Street
- Grand Central-United Nations: 410 Madison Avenue
- Midtown-Clinton: 1609 Broadway and 1790 Broadway
- Upper West Side: 230 West 95th Street
The city's government is leery about completely removing the pay phones as 27 million calls were made from the kiosks last year, not including 911 emergency calls, and is looking at other solutions like touchscreen map booths or powering stations. New York's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications on Wednesday released a "Request for Information" document soliciting ideas from from the public.