NYC to Build Citywide Network Offering Free Wi-Fi

May 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
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New York City wants to build a citywide network of Internet hotspots offering free Wi-Fi to replace the city’s aging network of payphones. The endeavor, led by the Department of Information and Telecommunications, will supply all five boroughs with free access and is predicted to create local jobs for the development, according to city officials.

“This administration has committed to making New York City work better for every community, and this [request for proposals] for free outdoor Wi-Fi is a downpayment on that promise,” Mayor Bill de Blasio says. “For years, the question was, ‘What to do with payphones?’ and now we have an answer.”

The project will consist of a network of 7,300 free Wi-Fi hotspots at payphone locations around the city. “Internet access needs to be more readily available to the public, and reinventing payphones to include free Wi-Fi is a terrific way to do that,” says Council Member James Vacca, chairman of the city’s Committee on Technology.

In addition to 24/7 free Wi-Fi, the plan will offer phone services, including free emergency 911 and government information 311 calls. Other services might include cellphone charging stations and touchscreens that provide information or facilitate business transactions.

Digital advertising in commercial corridors will pay for the project, expected to earn $17.5 million a year, officials say. City leaders will evaluate design submissions based on functional efficiency, aesthetics, security, durability, adaptability for various environments around the city, including historic districts and individual landmarks, and accommodation of people with disabilities. Responses to the request for proposals are due by June 30 at 5 p.m. EDT. The city anticipates signing a contract by the end this year.

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