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New York City to replace phone booths with Wi-Fi kiosks

Beginning next year, New York City residents may no longer have to search for a hotspot. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week plans to replace the city’s phone booths with new Wi-Fi-enabled kiosks complete with keypads to make calls on, charging stations and tablets.

The initiative comes from CityBridge, a group of companies including Qualcomm and Titan that proposed the idea earlier this year, according to an article in the New York Times. CityBridge will be replacing the current 8,400 pay phone booths, as well as adding a few more booths, for a total of 10,000 kiosks throughout the five boroughs. While the booths will eventually be funded by revenues from kiosks’ digital ads, the installation is expected to cost $200 million.

The project is a part of de Blasio’s push to improve income inequality by providing low-income residents, who rely most heavily on cellphone browsing, more opportunities to go online. A kiosk will include keypads for users to make free domestic phone calls with, charging stations for residents to charge their phones and touchscreen tablets to search directions. Three payphone booths will remain, for anyone looking to use coins to make phone calls with.

The booths are expected to have Wi-Fi 20 times faster than the average home connection, and can have more than 250 devices connected simultaneously. The Wi-Fi will extend to 150 feet outside the kiosks.

While there are some concerns, including over privacy and if enough companies were considered for the project, the installation is expected to begin early next year.

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