New York City Wants to Turn Payphones into Free WiFi Hotspots
Since payphone use is so amazingly low now, it surprises me that New York City reports having over 7,300 payphone kiosks in town. However, the city is planning to put them back to use. Rather than keeping them as simple payphones, the City of New York wants to convert payphones into free wifi hotspots.
Monday marked the deadline for interested parties to respond for a Request For Proposal to convert the city’s payphones to wifi hotspots. A May meeting with City officials about the plan was attended by 60 companies with such notable tech firms as Google, Samsung, IBM, Cisco, Verizon, Cablevision, and Time Warner in attendance.
The City’s plan would not only see payphone kiosks serving as wifi hotspots but they would also have phone charging stations, touch-screens which would offer local information and, well, payphone services which they can charge for (except for 311 and 911 calls). The City also wants some environmental sustainability, such as power drawn from solar panels, incorporated into the design in the booths. The bidders are also required to keep their new kiosks within the current space occupied by the payphones so as not to impede pedestrian traffic.
The best trick that the hotspots have to perform is working together as a network. Each hotspot must broadcast with a range of no less than 85 feet. When users move between hotspots, they should remain logged into the network without interruption unless they’ve moved out of range of the network and had their connections severed.
In addition to charging for the phone services and phone charging station, the winning bidder can charge for advertising on the wifi login page and the sides of the wifi kiosk (so long as the kiosk is not in a residential zone). The City of New York will receive a portion of the gross revenues from the kiosks with a minimum revenue guarantee as part of the contract.
Personally, I think this is a smart way forward. To a certain extent, I see Shaw Cable doing the same thing in Canada with free wifi for its customers in designated zones (and their free wifi is a hell of a lot better than what I’m paying far too much for at home). To create a free public wifi network that covers a large portion of New York City is a look into the always-connected future while still making the future affordable for everyone. It’s so next level and smart that I expect this to be quickly copied by many other cities.