You know those strange looking devices that can be found around the city that have buttons with numbers on them? They are called payphones, and since not many people use them anymore, Boston city officials want to revamp them and turn them into internet hubs.
City Councilors Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley will request to schedule a future hearing to discuss turning Boston’s stodgy and out-of-date touch-tone public devices into WiFi hotspots for people using computers and smartphones on the go.
Arroyo and Pressley are scheduled to call for the hearing during a full City Council meeting tomorrow.
According to the request filed by the duo, “payphones have declined in use with the introduction of cellphones and have become less profitable for the companies that own them.”
Arroyo and Pressley note in their request that in 2000, nationwide there were millions of payphones. By 2011, however, there were less than 425,000.
“They continue to disappear at a rate of about 10 percent per year,” according to officials.
Recently, New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications launched a pilot program, turning 10 payphones into WiFi hotspots by installing a router at each kiosk. The free WiFi is available to those within a few hundred feet of the payphone without the need of a password and without collecting personal information from users, according to a statement from Arroyo and Pressley.
“There is a digital divide between different demographics and socio-economic levels and such a program would expand access to the internet for more Boston residents,” they said.
If a request for a hearing is granted by the City Council, officials would take time to learn about the feasibility of instituting such a program in the Hub.
Representatives from the city’s Department of Innovation & Technology would be invited to weigh in on the proposal.