In a bold move that will change the way urban centres use existing technological infrastructure, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has issued a call for proposals to convert the city’s approximately 7,300 pay phone kiosks (many of which are damaged or completely inoperable) into free public WiFi stations. According to de Blasio, the winning proposal will “enhance public availability of increasingly-vital broadband access, invite new and innovative digital services, and increase revenue to the city” for millions of residents and visitors of all five of the city’s boroughs.
The notion of implementing free public broadband is not new. In Los Angeles, city council is seeking a provider to install a city-wide fibre optic broadband network up to 100 times faster than the average North American household connection. In Kansas City, MO, Provo, UT, and Austin, TX, Google began a pilot project known as “Google Fiber” that promises similar advancements, which is expanding to other cities nation-wide.
In New York, the payphone-to-broadband program is still a pilot project, and reviews of the service have been mostly positive, benchmarking the service at approximately 6mbps for downloads and about 1mbps for uploads. This is comparable to the most inexpensive residential internet connection offered by Rogers. The official proposal can be found here.