Google may turn NYC phone booths into Wi-Fi hubs

The search giant is among many companies in the running to bring New York City's phone booths back to technological relevance.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Google is one of the many companies vying to transform New York City's increasingly anachronistic phone booths into Wi-Fi hot spots.

The search giant was present at an informational meeting held in May to discuss the project. Other big-name attendees include Samsung, Time Warner Cable, Cisco, and Verizon. Bloomberg reported news of the meeting attendees late last night.

Google is no stranger to the business of Wi-Fi connectivity. The company has a project called Fiber, which aims to provide revved-up broadband speeds to Internet users. Google also has an ambitious initiative called Loon that seeks to bring connectivity to rural areas via high-altitude, giant Wi-Fi balloons.

The company also provides wireless access around its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters and its office in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood. Last July, Google announced that it would give $600,000 to San Francisco to provide Wi-Fi access to several of the city's parks.

The strategy expands Google's reach -- in turn allowing more people to use the company's products and services. Google declined to comment on the NYC pay phone project.

The project was unveiled in 2012 by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a way to repurpose the city's more than 73,000 phone booths. In October, several of the city's existing contracts with companies that maintain and operate public pay phones will expire, and the city is looking at alternative infrastructure plans. The companies that are trying to take over the pay phones are allowed to charge for phone service -- excluding calls to 911 and 311, the city's informational phone line -- but are barred from charging for Wi-Fi access.

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