Pay Phones, Meet WiFi

Call me! Photo by toddalert on Flickr

Pay phones have become obsolete in the age of smartphones; their booths, which once sheltered Clark Kent-cum-Superman, transported Bill and Ted across centuries, and provided Ron Burgundy with a “glass cage of emotion” have crumbled into disrepair around the country. Indeed, in the last 12 years, the number of pay phones nationwide has dwindled from a peak of 2.2 million to about 400,000, according to the American Public Communications Council.

Felix G. Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley want to install free WiFi at these blighted kiosks and bring them into the digital age. Yesterday, the Boston city councilors asked to hold a hearing on the plan, which would mimic a pilot program currently underway in New York.

“We still live with a technology divide and in a world and in a city where not everyone has Internet access,” Arroyo told the Globe. “It’s more than just looking at Facebook. It’s how people look for work, how they apply for jobs, and get their homework done.”

(Local public spaces like the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway and Norman B. Leventhal Park in Post Office Square already offer free wireless internet access.)

In mid-July, New York converted 10 of its remaining 12,360 pay phones into free WiFi hot spots (the signal extends between 100 and 200 feet from each phone)—the project is considered a way to explore the feasibility of a citywide WiFi network.