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NYC’s streetlights may transform into Wi-Fi hotspots

By Clayton Guse

The way that New Yorkers connect to the internet within the five boroughs is poised to get a major shake-up in the coming years.

The New York Post reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio's office is working to roll out Wi-Fi hotspots across the city’s network of streetlights. The concept is part of the administration’s push to give every city resident access to affordable high-speed internet, and it would theoretically compete with the likes of Verizon and Spectrum.

The streetlight initiative follows up on the relatively new LinkNYC kiosks, which allow members of the public free access to Wi-Fi, phone charging ports and the ability to make phone calls on a speakerphone loud enough to wake up an entire block. It is unclear whether or not the expanded Wi-Fi will be free for all, but it comes in a period when New York is seeing a rapid expansion of its wireless services in public spaces. Earlier this month, a pair of companies, Transit Wireless and Alcatel-Lucent, were recognized in the MTA’s Genius Transit Challenge for their plans to install an LTE network throughout the subway system—not just at platforms. 

The technology required to bring Wi-Fi to streetlights is nothing new. Companies have been producing concepts for streetlights as part of the Internet of Things for years. But the backing of De Blasio to roll out a public Wi-Fi option in New York could be a game changer not only for the city but for the country as a whole. 

The city is already working to phase out its old high-pressure sodium lamps (which give off that iconic orange glow) for brighter, whiter LED lights. Throw free or cheap wireless internet into the mix, and you could see New Yorkers get more excited about new streetlights than they’ve been in decades.

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