Wi-Fi Hotspots in NYC Phonebooths: Google, Samsung and Cisco Bid Proposals due Monday

By Anjalee Khemlani | Jul 22, 2014 08:03 AM EDT

Google, Samsung and Cisco were among 50 attendees at an informal meeting in May to transform phone booths in New York City to Wi-Fi hot spots.

Though no officials commented at the meeting, a confirmation of interested parties may soon be known when bids for proposals are received by the deadline on July 21, according to Bloomberg.

More than 7,300 phone booths in the city would be transformed into dual-purpose locations, providing phone services -- which would still require payment except for dialing 911 and 311 -- and free Wi-Fi access.

"The role of pay telephone service in public communications has changed dramatically since 1999," Stanley Shor, New York Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications assistant commissioner for franchise administration, told the Staten Island Advance. "According to recent figures, 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone and nearly 60 percent own a smartphone."

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Critics of the plan disagree with having one company control all the locations.

"We don't think it's in anyone's best interest in 2014 to go back to a monopoly. The city shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket," Ray Mastroianni, CEO of the Long Island City-based Telebeam, told the Staten Island Advance.

Telebeam currently operates 1,355 public pay phones at over 900 sites and has piloted its proposed Wi-Fi stations at 20 locations in the city.

Since the Internet access will be free, the companies would make money from advertising from side panels of the booths.

The move comes at a time when the current franchise pay phone contract is set to expire in October, according to the Staten Island Advance.

With the new proposed changes, the pay phones must all be functional within four years, and the advertising would bring an estimated revenue of more than $17 million to New York City by 2026.

In addition to being a hot spot, the booths will also serve as cell phone charging stations and will have interactive touch screens, which will provide local information and emergency notifications, according to Al-Jazeera.

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