NYC Morphing Practically Unused Pay Phone Kiosks Into Wi-Fi Hotspots

When New York City’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg isn’t too busy on his crusade to downsize sugary drinks or rebrand super tiny studio apartments as “micro-units” it turns out he’s been working on a way to turn the city’s practically unused pay phone kiosks into something useful — Wi-Fi hotspots.

This makes sense in the era of cell phones, because really, when’s the last time you weren’t surprised to see someone actually making a phone call in a pay phone booth?

The program will kick off with hotspots in around 10 locations, with the hopes that it will eventually expand to almost 12,000 kiosks scattered throughout the city’s five boroughs.

At each spot, the signal will extend out a couple of hundred feet. Good for those trying not to overdo it on their mobile device’s data plan. And in an added bonus, the spiffed up kiosks will be a boon to those who rely on using pay phones on a regular basis as well.

The program is part of Bloomberg’s NYC Digital Initative, and has the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications working on deals with several phone companies.

The only two times I’ve left my phone at home and tried to use a pay phone in this city I couldn’t find a working one within a 10-block radius that wasn’t jammed full of garbage, so this is a welcome change.

Pay Phone Wi-Fi Hot Spots Coming to NYC [NBC 4 New York]


Edit Your Comment

  1. demona667 says:

    Been a long time since I had to drop a dime.

  2. matlock expressway says:

    “This makes sense in the era of cell phones, because really, when’s the last time you weren’t surprised to see someone actually making a phone call in a pay phone booth?”

    I’ve found that if you live in an area with lots of new immigrants, payphones are used all the time, since a payphone + long distance card is infinitely cheaper for international calling than any other option.

    • matlock expressway says:

      … which is to say: spend some time outside your middle-class enclaves and you’ll cease to be so surprised that things outside your oh-so-modern field of vision still exist.

    • Cerne says:

      Hey fun fact. You can use those calling cards with a land line. My area of the city is about 60% foreign born and I never see anyone using a pay phone. So stow your righteous indignation.

      • matlock expressway says:

        More fun facts:

        1. Everyone knows you can use those cards with a land line.

        2. A payphone is also a land line, so you weren’t even clearly disagreeing with me.

        3. “New immigrants” and “foreign born” are very distinct concepts.

        4. New immigrants often have a tougher time affording land lines, since, among other things, many phone companies require a sizeable cash deposit for people without a local credit history — too sizeable for many new immigrants to afford. The fact that your 60% foreign born neighbors get by just fine on this matter is a beside the point.

  3. aloria says:

    I’d rather they work on either having WiFi or working cellular reception in the subway. It’s such a huge headache to be trapped underground for God knows how long and have no way of letting work or friends know what’s going on. It’s even worse on the weekend when have the lines are running differently due to construction and figuring out a new route figuring out a route from vague signage and incomprehensible conductor announcements, or going above ground and losing your fare.

    Yeah, people whine about how obnoxious people will become with active cellphones underground, but come on. We already put up with proselytizers, loud drunks, people busking for money, etc. I don’t think people being dicks on their phones is really going to make the MTA experience that much more unpleasant.

  4. mikedt says:

    Comcast, or whatever cable company owns NYC, will be in court on Monday fighting this.

    • aloria says:

      In Manhattan it’s mostly Time Warner, but Verizon FIOS is available in a lot of neighborhoods. I live in Brooklyn and I have Cablevision. Unlike a lot of towns, there isn’t one cable company that owns the entirety of NYC.

  5. eviljim says:

    I sure hope they don’t remove the actual booth kiosk, because then the homeless and drunk will have nowhere to urinate.

  6. alisonann says:

    So will they also do something about people using the phone booths as urinals? Those things are gross.

    • 180CS says:

      I propose low voltage electric grids composed of a ‘hot’ grid behind the grounding grid. Piss in a phone booth, connect the circuit. Everyone wins. Including Darwin.

  7. Snowblind says:

    I can see it now, as Mild Mannered Clark Kent dashes into a phonebooth…

    Hey Superman!

    Move over will ya? Youse is blocking the WiFi!

  8. TrustAvidity says:

    When I saw the preview pic for this article on the main page I thought that was a snowman on the phone.