The Big Idea: NYC Pay Phones Will Become Wi-Fi Hotspots

Pay PhoneYou know you’re getting old when you have to explain to someone what a pay phone is.

It doesn’t feel that long ago when we were all reliant on pay phones as we traveled all points of the world, and it is a wonder that pre-paid phone cards still exist. With the smartphone now a norm in our lives, the ever-dutiful payphone has been reduced to nothing more than a reminder of a bygone era; and when you see them around major cities, they do look a little out of place. The line “It belongs in a museum!” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade springs to mind.

New York City though has come up with a pretty big idea: convert pay phones into wifi hot spots. A brilliant plan as New York City alone has 7500 pay phones, and as the city rents the space to the phone companies for pay phones—and the phone company isn’t really making money on pay phones as they once used to—the city needs to figure out how to make revenue off these 7500 locations.

So city officials have decided to turn pay phones into wifi hotspots, replacing booths with kiosks that will offer a touchpad. You can make a phone call from this touchpad using Voice Over IP. This means you can call for free from anywhere in the country using the touchpad in case you don’t have your own phone. You will need to provide your own earphones to plug into the kiosk then if you need to make the call private.

Privacy in New York, though? Good luck with that.

Outside of the VoIP feature, you will be able to use this point as a high-speed hotspot, the range roughly a circumference of about 150 feet. All this convenience sounds wonderful, but this conversion will cost the Big Apple $200 million to replace all of the phone stalls with these kiosks.

WifiYou might ask how is New York planning to do that? Now, this is what is so clever about this wifi conversion. There will be digital advertising embedded in these hotspots. Whenever you log in, you’ll see some kind of ad. Something you as a user should expect as convenience always comes at a cost. The city is counting on doubling their previous revenue once these payphones become hotspots. What will really be nice is that visitors to New York City will always be within reach of a network. If your mobile phone is dead or you don’t have one—yes, there are some people who do not have mobile phones—you can still make a phone call at the kiosk.

To accommodate the ads, the kiosks will have 55 inch digital screens, but they are very sleek in the design. It’s a vertical screen, not horizontal. They have already made this conversion in Monaco, but they just left the old phone booth standing. Kudos to New York for being innovative in solving the aesthetic problem, considering the little details. It will be fascinating to see which city is next. 



shurtz.jpgA research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratfdord University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.

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