The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) has announced an innovative new project to convert all 9670 payphones in NYC into use as Wi-Fi hotspots. The payphone to Wi-Fi hotspot initiative is part of a program launched last year by former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is expanding the program as one more step in bringing the Internet to the masses.

Wi-Fi hotspot New York City

Statement from NYC DoITT regarding Wi-Fi Hotspots

The NYC DoITT released a statement regarding its new initiative. “The role of public pay telephones has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. The widespread adoption of mobile devices reduces the overall need for public telephones, yet not everyone owns a mobile phone, and not everyone who owns one has connectivity at all times.”

Informational meeting in May

DoITT held an initial informational meeting for companies in May to kick off the project. The attendees of the meeting are expected to submit final bid proposals by Monday. The proposal specs note that in addition to WiFi, the payphones can also be used to provide telephone service and advertising. Companies are allowed to charge for telephone services, but all WiFi and 911/311 calls will be free. Moreover, the city wants users to be able to sign in just once and have complete access the free WiFi as they move around the city.

Over 50 companies expressed interest in assisting New York City’s novel bid to become more connected, including Google, Cisco, Samsung and IBM.

New York City has not announced when it will select the winning bid, nor when the first WiFi hotspots will be available.

Google is major player in expanding public Wi-Fi access

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has been a major proponent  of greater access to WiFi and the Internet for some time. The tech titan has already installed fiber infrastructure in several communities around the U.S., including Austin, Texas; Kansas City; and Provo, Utah. Google Fiber is also planning to expand to other cities, including Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; San Antonio, Texas; and San Jose, Calif.

Google’s hard-wired plans are matched by several ambitious WiFi projects. as one example, Google already offers free WiFi in the area surrounding its NYC headquarters in the Chelsea neighborhood. The search giant is also assuming WiFi duties from AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) at all the Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) locations nationwide later this year.