De Blasio wants to bring 10,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots to NYC

A proposal from the mayor to replace the city’s payphones with Wi-Fi-enabled “public communication structures” is raising eyebrows

It seems carriage horses aren't the only NYC relics going the way of the dodo. The city's payphones could be getting the boot as well—but they'd be making way for kiosks with free Wi-Fi. The proposal, a De Blasio initiative, would replace the city's 9,000-plus payphones; many of them are broken or no longer in service, and the contracts for their operation will expire in October. In their place, the mayor wants to install as many as 10,000 "public communication structures" throughout the city.

So what does that mean, exactly? They're basically Wi-Fi hotspots. They would go towards helping the city’s residents and visitors who can't afford regular broadband service or are temporarily without it, and they would still provide the standard telephone service of calls to 911 and 311 for free. De Blasio's administration is currently receiving proposals from companies looking to be the city's official service provider, a contract that would run through 2026.

Potential operators are providing their own designs as part of their application (which explains the lack of renderings—for now), but the city has proposed several guidelines for the kiosks. These include height (they can be slightly over ten feet tall, as opposed to the seven-and-a-half-foot height for current pay phones) and dedicated ad space. Limited to 21.3 square feet, that's about half the current regulations, but it does include digital advertising—which is raising eyebrows about privacy.

Another point of contention: The "public communication structures" don't necessarily have to accept coins as payment, meaning that you may be forced to pay for your phone call using a credit card or prepaid calling card...options that are least accessible to the people who most depend on payphones.

What do you think, dear readers? Do you still use payphones, or are you ready to move on to these Wi-Fi-featuring kiosks?

(h/t The New York Times)

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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