Two Boston City Councilors are proposing that the city add free wireless Internet access to payphones around the city.
At-large City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Felix Arroyo want officials to explore the feasibility of mimicking a pilot program New York City launched several weeks ago in which free public Wi-Fi Internet hotspots began emitting from routers installed at 10 payphones. The phones will remain operational in the New York program.
Use of payphones has become rare because of cell phones. Some payphones no longer function to make calls. Others have been removed entirely.
“Payphones have declined in use with the introduction of cell phones and have become less profitable for the companies that own them,” Pressley and Arroyo wrote in a council order they filed to request a hearing on the matter.
Wi-Fi hot spots would help use the old pay phone kiosks.
“There is a digital divide between different demographics and socioeconomic levels and such a program would expand access to the Internet for more Boston residents,” the filing said.
The Internet service recently introduced in New York broadcasts a signal out a couple hundred feet from each payphone, according to the Associated Press. No password is needed and users can connect whenever they want to and for as long as they wish.
No personal information would be collected using the free Wi-Fi system, according to the Boston councilors’ order for a hearing, which was reported on previously by the BostInno website and the Universal Hub blog.
The Big Apple plans to add the Internet service to all of its 12,000 payphones, the AP reported.
Since 1997, the number of payphones nationwide has dropped from an estimated peak of about 2.2 million to about 400,000, according to a petition that the American Public Communications Council, which advocates for payphone use, sent to the Federal Communications Commission this past spring.
The first-ever payphone was installed at a bank in Hartford in the late 1800s.