Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NYC To Replace Payphones With WIFI

About a year from now, NYC will be offering free wifi access; sure Starbucks offers that now, but the city hopes to create a fast public wifi link using payphone kiosks to transmit a 150 foot perimeter in order to connect.  And NYC hopes to profit from this new business venture through advertising on payphone kiosks.

Initially, I thought that such an ambitious plan would enable apartment dwellers across the city to ditch their cable company and get high speed access to watch Netflix and other content without paying an ISP provider.  But 150 feet may not reach many people in their homes.  At the same time, New Yorkers using that end up using the new wifi service will most likely have to be outside to access.  Okay in the summer, less so in the winter.  And wouldn't you rather sit down in a nice coffee shop than stand outside and freeze your behind off as you surf the web.

As to advertising, with so many digital billboards already overwhelming our senses in the city, it is hard to imagine that more kiosks will provide a positive ad experience.  And per Mashable, "Users will only have to log into the network once, making the transition from one hotspot to the next seamless." Thus no real online ad opportunity.  

Such a program seems beneficial to NYC residents with free wifi and free domestic phone capabilities.  And if the radius of wifi access can be significantly expanded, a nice alternative to the cable and phone company; in fact, a potential competitor.  But as a business, it is hard to see it being profitable for its owners.  And while there is worry that a public wifi hotspot could affect our privacy, we have already accepted these wifi hotspots as we enter coffee shops, department stores and other establishments.  It seems few of us care about privacy.