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New York is pushing through a brilliant plan to make free Wi-Fi available across the city

Published May 2nd, 2014 9:15PM EDT
New York Wi-Fi Pay Phones

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It’s taken a while but it looks like New York City will finally go through with a brilliant plan that will greatly expand the number of Wi-Fi hotspots available throughout the five boroughs. New York mayor Bill de Blasio this week announced that he’s seeking proposals for how to best build a citywide Wi-Fi network that uses pay phone booths as hotspots. This initiative started under former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg but it was fairly limited in reach — de Blasio apparently wants to push it much further to create a Wi-Fi network capable of spanning huge chunks of the city.

“This administration has committed to making New York City work better for every community, and this RFP for free outdoor Wi-Fi is a down payment on that promise,” de Blasio said during his announcement. “For years, the question was, ‘What to do with payphones?’ and now we have an answer. 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.”

One thing to watch will be what New York does to ensure that its Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t just high-quantity but high-quality as well. Public Wi-Fi hotspots frequently suffer from overcrowding where too many users are logged in at the same area and also are frequently targeted by hackers as ways to swipe unwitting users’ data.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.