The City of New York has issued a request for proposals to turn its aging public pay phones into a citywide WiFi network.
The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications wants help turning the city's more than 7,300 pay phones into Internet-enabled hotspots spread out across all five boroughs. According to a fact sheet issued by the city, the plan is to offer free WiFi, 911 calls, 311 calls and more, within a minimum of 85 feet from each installation. The city plans to use ad revenue to finance the venture.
"For years, the question was, ‘What to do with payphones?’ and now we have an answer," said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement. "By using a historic part of New York’s street fabric, we can significantly enhance public availability of increasingly-vital broadband access, invite new and innovative digital services, and increase revenue to the city – all at absolutely no cost to taxpayers."
In 2013, the city of New York offered a challenge to "reinvent" pay phones, requesting that designers find a way to update the outmoded calling stands. But none of the 125 submissions were more than a proof of concept, as noted by Gizmodo.
The new request for proposals offers the winning submission operation and maintenance of up to 10,000 public communications points.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post said the winning submission will receive an annual budget of $17.5 million. However, the city's fact sheet for the project says, "The City of New York is guaranteed a minimum of $17.5 million per year in compensation; the percentage of gross revenues paid to the City must be greater than 50 percent."