NYC has begun replacing neglected payphones with WiFi hotspots

nyc payphone
CC BY-SA 2.0 S. Alexis

Creating free city-wide WiFi networks is an idea that has popped up a lot in recent years. As we become more and more reliant on internet access to get daily tasks done, WiFi has become more of a public need than a want. Cities like London, Boston, Los Angeles and now New York have come up with plans to build free, outdoor networks.

Last year, the city announced the LinkNYC plan that will see 10,000 hotspots built, most of them taking up the real estate currently held by payphones. The first of those hotspots has been built in Manhattan, standing at 9 feet tall. It's currently being tested, working out any kinks before 7,500 of the hot spots go online at the beginning of next year.

The narrow kiosks will features ads that will bring in at least twice the revenue as the payphones they're replacing. The payphones are hardly used now that 68 percent of Americans own smartphones and even more own cell phones in general. In fact, the payphones have fallen into disrepair with at least 37 percent of the payphones being found in an inspection last year.

The new hotspots will cover a 150-foot radius and will offer data speeds of one gigabit per second, which is 20 times faster than the average home internet service.

This is not New York's first foray into creating public hotspots. In 2012, the city started offering free WiFi at a few payphones and it's that project that has grown into LinkNYC. Another company, Bigbelly, which makes smart WiFi-enabled trash and recycling bins, has started placing their bins in neighborhoods around the five boroughs to act as free Wi-Fi hot spots. BigBelly's project targets underserved communities to ensure that those neighborhoods have internet access.

London has taken a slightly different approach to replacing their old, neglected phone boxes. The Solarbox project has converted six of the phone boxes into free solar-powered charging stations for cell phones and hopes to expand to convert more of the 8,000 unused boxes in the city instead of having them discarded.

NYC has begun replacing neglected payphones with WiFi hotspots
The city is creating a city-wide network with the spots held by unused payphones.

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