- Payphones in New York are being repurposed as Wi-Fi hotspots.
- The city is testing ten locations near parks and other public spaces.
"New York City by far has more payphones than any other city," said Nicholas Sbordone, a spokesman for the city government.
For years, there have been attempts by private companies to keep these data nodes relevant in the era of the cellphone by adding Wi-Fi. Verizon, for example, talked up access to Wi-Fi from its payphones for customers of its landline Internet service. And TCC Teleplex did a pilot project of a paid Wi-Fi service.
Now the City has taken a baby step, persuading contractors who run payphones to add free Wi-Fi to ten of them -- hitting each borough -- as a trial to see how they go over with New Yorkers.
"You might not necessarily stop to use Wi-Fi at a payphone if you're walking by...if it's not in a place that's inviting to sit in," said Sbordone. So the city has targeted payphones near parks and other public spaces for the trial.
Why would the payphone providers -- Van Wagner and Titan -- give away Wi-Fi for free? Perhaps to hedge bets. Public telephones are far from a growing industry in a country where nearly everyone has a cellphone (and often a smartphone).