The city and payphone companies Van Wagner and Titan are joining forces to bring free Internet access to payphone kiosks throughout Manhattan including one at 58th Street and Broadway. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
A handful of pay phones in the city are now able to do more than make calls. They will let you surf the internet. For free.
"This is a free service for the public to use at anytime, day or night, for an unlimited amount of time," said New York City Information and Innovation Officer Rahul Merchant.
The pilot project launched at 10 hot spots across the city, from midtown to SoHo to Downtown Brooklyn and Astoria. There are also plans to expand into the Bronx and Staten Island.
This Wi-Fi works on both iPads and laptops. It extends anywhere between 100 and 200 feet from pay phones. All a resident has to do is stroll by and search for the free Wi-Fi network.
The service is being paid for by pay phone operators.
"The reason why Wi-Fi is here now is we saw people walking down the streets looking at their handhelds and not even looking at where they were going," said Peter Izzo of Van Wagner Communications.
The idea sits well with residents near this hot spot in Astoria.
"Yeah, I would use it," said one resident. "It's really good because I don't have Internet at home. If I need to look something up, then I could use it."
On top of the Wi-Fi, the city is also asking for suggestions on how to update its 12,000-plus pay phones.
Officials said that could include GPS mapping, 311 information or features to assist New Yorkers during an emergency.
"There is so much information that the city of New York can offer," said NYC Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne. "I think this is another surface and another vehicle to provide that access to the public."
Residents offered their own suggestions to NY1.
"You can use it to install a few security cameras to increase the security in the area that has a pay phone booth," said one.
Another resident suggested it was time to get rid of the technology.
"At this point, it's time they give it up and come up with better technology that people know how to use," said another resident.
Tell that to those who made at least 20 million calls from them last year.