CBS, MTA to bring free Wi-Fi to midtown Manhattan

As a six-month test, a chunk of the city will be equipped with free public Wi-Fi supported by ad revenue.

The area of Manhattan that will be equipped with CBS-provided Wi-Fi. CBS Corp.

A chunk of 36 city blocks in Manhattan will have free, ad-supported public Wi-Fi access by the end of November, thanks to a new initiative from CBS Corporation in conjunction with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New York City Transit.

Called the CBS Mobile Zone, this area of coverage will stretch through a bustling, tourism- and business-heavy swath of midtown from 42nd Street north to Central Park south, from Sixth Avenue west to Eighth Avenue. (Landmarks-wise, that's roughly Times Square to Columbus Circle.)

The new effort will be supported largely by advertising. Upon logging on, Web surfers will come to a home page with "hyperlocal content such as breaking local and national news, sports highlights, weather reports, music discovery, wallpapers, ringtones, maps, a social network, and the ability to search for nearby restaurants, shops and entertainment complete with geographically-targeted community reviews," according to a release from CBS. Citi and Salesgenie.com have signed on as sponsors. Some businesses within the midtown zone will also be equipped with routers to take advantage of the Internet access.

At this point, however, it's only a six-month test, or as CBS calls it, a "pilot program." After all, the future of public Wi-Fi programs remains hazy as municipal plans continue to stall across the country.

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