The availability of mobile phones has rendered public phone booths almost useless and obsolete. But the phone booths are getting a makeover that might force people to pay attention to them once again. The new New York City phone booths feature SmartScreens and free WiFi.
The City has pledged to restore its 12,000 phone booths and make them more technologically advanced.
The first phase of the renovation began on Wednesday, when ten phone booths were lit up with WiFi routers attached to their roofs.
According to ABC News, six of the new booths are in Manhattan, two are in Brooklyn, and one is in Queens. The phone booths in the Bronx and Staten Island are next to be renovated.
The City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, with the help of advertising companies Van Wagner and Titan, is funding the project.
The public phones will still operate normally, with WiFi intended as an extra. “We are not trying to replace the pay phone with something else,” Rhaul Merchant, Citywide Chief Information and Innovation Officer, said at the unveiling of the one new booth.
We want to see what else our citizens want in a pay phone.
The WiFi can be accessed through phones, laptops, and tablets within a 100-200 foot radius of the booths by connecting to the networks “Free WiFi” or “NYC Free Public WiFi.”
Although there is no password required to use the internet, users will be asked to agree to terms and conditions before they proceed to the internet.
Still, security remains a top priority, according to Rachel Sterne, New York’s Chief Digital Officer.
The city and the partners have taken all security measures and we will continue to make sure it the best possible experience for New Yorkers who are signing on to the WiFi.
Sterne said that no personal information would be gathered from the users’ devices.