Hurricane Sandy has brought mighty New York to its knees, knocking out electricity and Internet for hundreds of thousands in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. Phone reception is erratic, damage is extensive, and it seems the recovery process will be sluggish.
But most residents can’t afford to be disconnected for more than a few days at a time. Many New Yorkers are scouring the city for WiFi hotspots and cellular service areas. Below, we’ve gathered a list of locations and companies that may be able to assist during this unwelcome media fast:
This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is provided.
For phone service…
The Federal Communications Commission recently reported that one out of every four cell towers is down in 10 states affected by Hurricane Sandy. In response, AT&T and T-Mobile announced a temporary deal, allowing New Jersey and New York customers to use whichever network is offering stronger service in their area – without any extra fees.
The Huffington Post’s own Jason Gilbert also pointed out that pay phones (yes, these still exist) have been helping smartphone-less New Yorkers connect with friends and family. “On Tuesday, a line of the disconnected waited to use a payphone in the West Village, some of them making what was surely their first pay phone call in many years,” he reported from downtown Manhattan.
For Internet service…
If you’ve ever lived in “the city that never sleeps,” you know there are a slew of faithful restaurants and companies that provide free WiFi services, including Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, some Whole Foods and certain McDonald's. Your best bet for using any of these amenities is to travel above 39th Street, as the majority of lower Manhattan is still without power.
Manhattanites gather outside of this Starbucks to access some sought-after Internet.
Some Apple retail locations are up and running in Manhattan, shuttling in employees from around the city to keep throngs of customers at bay. While the flagship store at 5th Avenue may not be a quiet place to hunker down and catch up on work, visitors can use the store's Internet-connected display devices to contact loved ones and plug their personal devices into the many power cords plugged in around the store.
New York City parks normally maintain a partnership with AT&T for wireless Internet in select locations, but it’s important to note that all “parks, playgrounds, beaches and recreation centers” in Manhattan are currently closed due to storm damage. Use this NYC.gov website to stay updated on the status of these facilities.
The New York Public Library system is also providing WiFi hotspots for visitors, with 55 branches open (as of publication). A few buildings still have limited service, so it’s best to call before visiting, but here is the complete list of libraries reopened for the public. “[D]ue to the hard work of our tech team, Internet access should be available at all open branches, despite power outages,” the organization’s website reads. You should note, however, that the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street as well as the downtown branches south of 39th Street remain closed.
Comcast is offering free WiFi for those without Internet, whether you're current customer or not. This deal is available to the following states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. To find a functional Xfinity hotspot near you, check out Comcast’s coverage map by clicking (here).
AllThingsD notes that Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently launched a new organization dubbed The Open Wireless Movement that is “dedicated to convincing people to take advantage of the guest networking functions on their WiFi routers.” Stay updated with this movement and see how it may affect your neighborhood or local business by clicking (here).
But, where to go if you’re part of a small company trying to access the Internet? If you're able to find transportation to Manhattan's Flatiron District, then you’re in luck. Social discovery platform Mirror has invited startups to share its office space. For more information, find out how to contact Mirror here.
Mirror's work space, located at 28th and Broadway.
Do you know of places with operational Internet in New York City and the surrounding boroughs? Leave us suggestions in the comments section below, or tweet us at [@HuffPostTech].