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New York City Finds New Use For Old Pay Phones: Wi-Fi Hotspots

New York pay phone kiosks have been on the decline. Now there's a great 21st century use for them.

Here's a good idea. New York City wants to repurpose old pay phone kiosks by turning the locations into Wi-Fi hotspots across the city's five boroughs.

Many of these pay phone kiosks have fallen into disrepair as the telephone companies that used to operate them spend less and less time on their upkeep. Residents complain that many of the kiosks have become unsightly and crime magnets.

The city seems to believe that giving a new purpose to these pay phones addresses these important concerns, as well as providing more Internet access around the city.

Ten locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens were brought online Wednesday. The city says additional hotspots would be turned on in the "coming months," in places like Staten Island and the Bronx. The service is free and available to passersby within 300 feet of these kiosks. Currently the service includes no advertisements.

That's likely not to last: Each installation costs about $2,000, and is being paid for by Van Wagner Communications and Titan Communication, which own a majority of the city's 13,000 pay phones.

Try a Hotspot Out

If you live in or are traveling to New York City, here's the official list of initial phone kiosk hotspot locations:

Brooklyn

  • Brooklyn Heights-Cobble Hill: 545 Albee Square and 2 Smith Street

Queens

  • Astoria: 30-94 Steinway Street

Manhattan

  • SoHo: 402 West Broadway
  • Fur-Flower District: 458 Seventh Avenue
  • Theater District-Clinton: 28 West 48th Street
  • Grand Central-United Nations: 410 Madison Avenue
  • Midtown-Clinton: 1609 Broadway and 1790 Broadway
  • Upper West Side: 230 West 95th Street

Other cities, take note!

For more tech news and commentary, follow Ed on Twitter at @edoswald, on Facebook, or on Google+.

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