NYC Parks To Get Free WiFi, At A Price

New Yorkers are slated to get free wifi in 32 public parks next year, but it will come with a pricetag. Park users will get three 10 minute sessions per month, and after that pay 99 cents a day. The money goes to Time Warner and Cablevision, who agreed to provide the wifi as part of the city agreeing to renew their cable-tv franchises for 10 years. Public advocates promptly slammed the deal as the privatization of a public good.

“There should be totally free wireless in the parks,” City Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) told New York Daily News. “This sounds like a joke.”

The two companies will spend $10 million to make the service happen. Since their service contracts expired two years ago, Time Warner and Cablevision have been holding closed-door negotiations with the city not open to the public or press. The contracts to provide cable-tv service to almost 2 million households are worth over $25 billion.

“We think we’ve done a pretty good job in negotiating some pretty creative stuff in this franchise agreement,” city spokesman Bruce Regal told New York Daily News. “Overall, it’s a fine package.”

The NYC Council will be holding a hearing on the topic this morning, Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. in the 16th Floor Committee Room, 250 Broadway, New York, NY.

Does the plan, which is still be hammered out, take the “airport” approach to wifi, at the expense of citizens? Does it privatize what should be a public good, like water or playgrounds? Or is the plan a reasonable way to defray costs while preventing against outright abuses of the system? Sound off in the comments.

City parks to get free Wifi, but limited to 30 minutes per user per month [New York Daily News]