Councilors Want Boston to Turn Payphones into Wi-Fi Hotspots
One positive aspect of Wi-Fi hotspots across the city would be providing access to those who cannot afford access to the Internet.
When was the last time you used a pay phone in Back Bay?
Probably not recently, but in the future you may be able to use them to get a free signal on your smart phone.
New York City recently converted payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots, and City Councilor At-Large Felix Arroyo would like to see the same happen in Boston.
"We're using iPads, tablets, and an increase in Wi-Fi would lessen congestion on phone networks. A key point is for the access to technology, for people who don't have access to the Internet," said Arroyo at Wednesday's Boston City Council meeting. "We already do it with libraries and community centers. We depend more and more on the Internet in our daily lives."
New York recently made 10 payphone kiosks into Wi-Fi hotspots, providing free wireless service up to 300 feet away.
Arroyo said a neighborhood group, or a private company, such as a local business, would sponsor the hotspot and pay for the Wi-Fi.
Like Arroyo, fellow At-Large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley said some of the best ideas come from constituents, which is how Arroyo became aware of New York's program.
Pressley admitted she isn't the most tech-savvy of individuals — her staff made fun of her for finally using Google Docs in her office. She acknowledged Wi-Fi hotspots could help close technology access gaps. Pressley stated facts provided by the Department of Commerce in 2010:
- Only 4 out of 10 households with incomes below $25,000 had wired Internet access at home.
- 93 percent of households with incomes exceeding $100,000 had wired Internet access at home.
- Slightly more than half of all African-American and Hispanic households, 55 and 57 percent, have wired Internet access at home
- 72 percent of Caucasian households have wired internet access
Said Pressley, "There are some areas of the city that are underserved, and this may help save money. I know this proposal cannot make a community strong, but it is an idea worth exploring."
Arroyo said he was unaware of how many payphones are in Boston. He said that in the 1990s there were 2.2 million payphones in the country, and 500,000 in 2012.
Arroyo said a Wi-Fi hotspot program would compliment the access already provided by the city at community centers, libraries and schools.
The order was sent to the Committee on City, Neighborhood Services & Veterans Affairs, for a future hearing.