You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Little-used Boston pay phone kiosks could become Wi-Fi hot spots

Public pay phones are a rarity around Boston these days, lonely sentinels from a time before cellphones revolutionized — for better or worse — the way people stay connected.

Now, city officials want to explore an idea that could once again make the kiosks a destination for residents and visitors: transforming them into beacons of free, wireless Internet connections.

Continue reading below

“Otherwise, they’re just ugly street furniture,” Councilor at Large Felix G. Arroyo said by phone Wednesday, shortly after he and his council colleague Ayanna Pressley introduced an order to hold a hearing on the plan.

“We still live with a technology divide and in a world and in a city where not everyone has Internet access,” Arroyo added. “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.”

Details of how the effort in Boston might work have not been ironed out, but the two city councilors hope it would largely mimic a pilot program New York City launched three weeks ago.

There, free public Wi-Fi is broadcast by routers installed at pay phones, according to Nicholas Sbordone, a spokesman for New York’s information, technology, and telecommunications department. The signal is accessible within 100 to 200 feet of the kiosk.

Users can connect to the service whenever they want and for as long as they want — no password is needed and no personal information gathered.

The program operates at no cost to taxpayers, Sbordone said. Instead, the various private companies that own the kiosks pay for installing and maintaining the new infrastructure at the pay phone stations — some of which feature advertisements that generate revenue for the companies.

The service is offered at 10 New York pay phones so far, but officials hope to expand the
Wi-Fi service.

In Boston, the City Council order calls for a hearing so that city officials and the community can discuss the feasibility of the proposal, Arroyo said.

The order was referred to the council’s city and neighborhood services committee. A date has not yet been set for the hearing.

Some of the remaining pay phones no longer work. At other kiosks, phones have been removed.

Since 1997, the number of pay phones nationwide has dropped from an estimated peak of about 2.2 million to about 400,000, according to the American Public Communications Council, which advocates for pay phone use. It was not immediately clear how many remain sprinkled across Boston.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at mjrochele@gmail.com. For more news from Boston’s neighborhoods and surrounding towns, go to boston.com/ yourtown.
Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.