- Internet & the Web
New York's New WiFi Hotspots are Setting a Trend like Only New York Can
If you were born after the year 2000 you most likely don't know the struggle of fishing through your pockets to find enough change to call your mom, or even worse, calling collect. Pay phones to you are most likely on the same page as dinosaur bones and WWII when it comes to your knowledge of history. What were once a germ infested necessity have since become an obsolete fossil bringing down the look of the neighborhood and leading people to question why the city doesn't do anything about them. The good news is that the city of New York is doing something about them, and what they are doing is absolutely brilliant.
Those old phone booths are being transformed into technology hubs unlike anything the United States has ever seen. These 7,500+ transformed phone booths will serve as free WiFi hot spots around the city as well as a place to charge your phone and access city services. This type of service is sure to be a hit with millennials who are spending their time on the streets and in cafes, but it may also have another hidden demographic that the service will be far more valuable to. It is no secret that New York has a large homeless population and - I know it doesn't make sense that they would have a phone, but no home, but it is a reality in 2016 - having access to free WiFi, electricity, and city services may be the chance they need to get the help they so often deserve.
While the idea is certainly exciting there is more to think about here than just getting free stuff. One of the biggest problems facing the 21st century technology boom is that of security and privacy. Having an open WiFi hub that can be accessed by thousands of users at a time certainly puts many of those users at risk whether they have security features on their phone or not. Though we would like to think that our personal information would never be stolen it is an unfortunate concern in 2016.
Then there are the issues of keeping up with changing technology. The city says that they will be updating the hubs every few years to keep them up to date with current technology, but they have not yet disclosed how they plan to do that or at what cost, which brings me to my next point.
Who is paying for this? Nothing is ever really free, especially 7,500 WiFi hubs. There will be advertising revenue, but I can't believe that ad revenue would be enough to pay for WiFi for a whole city. How the city of New York is going to keep these hubs working properly over the long run without instituting some kind of new tax or fee is beyond me.
While New York is the first in the country to bring WiFi to the whole city on a scale like this they are not the first in the world. Cities like Taipei and Helsinki offer free WiFi that is faster than what most of us in the U.S. are forced to pay for. Paris has also developed their own public hubs that seem to be going over swimmingly. Hopefully New York's pilot program will have great results and start spreading to cities around the country. Admittedly it would probably be a decade plus before we saw this kind of technology all over the country unless some kind of corporation steps in to speed up the process.