NYC’s Wi-Fi Payphones

New York to ad WiFi to payphone stations

In a huge city of 8.4 million people, small details can get lost in the hustle. For example, New York City’s old and forgotten pay phones. Today, these pay phones are getting an extreme makeover: Wi-Fi edition.

In 2012, the city started a pilot program installing free Wi-Fi hotspots in 10 pay phones. The effort has been slowly growing and New Yorkers can now find free Wi-Fi in 35 phones throughout the city. CBS Outdoor, one of the few companies still operating pay phones, hopes to deploy as many as 5,000.

Since the rise of cell phones, pay phones took an obvious hit. Ten years ago, there 25,000 pay phones in New York City. Today, less than 12,000 pay phones remain. To salvage revenue, pay phone operators started plastering the pay phone structures with advertisements. Those advertisements brought in approximately $16 million in 2012, compared to the $1 million brought in by actual phone calls.

Now, CBS Outdoor is looking at Wi-Fi to save their industry. Through sponsorship, advertising and co-location with other Wi-Fi providers, CBS Outdoor hopes that their pay phones will live on.

However, there are obstacles that stand in the way. For one, public Wi-Fi is known to have security issues. Identity thieves and other cyber criminals can use public Wi-Fi to gain access to a person’s device, and with the number of free Wi-Fi networks increases, it could become a huge target.

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