You, along with most of the world, may have completely forgotten about pay phones. Well, with its 12,000 still-standing phone booths, New York City certainly hasn’t. The city government has decided that these outdated machines need revamping, and they’ve chosen to do this by providing the phones with free Wi-Fi.
This may sound like a good idea at first. After all everybody likes free things, and everyone loves the Internet, so it seems like a no-brainer. And it’s better to put those phone booths to use; nobody wants a bunch of seemingly useless eye-sores all over their city.
But the question real is, will people actually use this free phone-booth Wi-Fi in favour of traditional ISPs? Probably not, and here are 5 good reasons why.
1. It’s Too Slow
Most people want fast Internet when it comes to using portable devices. It kind of comes with the “on-the-go” feel that phones, tablets, and laptops offer. But, according to NPR, it’s not going to be as fast as you might hope. Having to stop and stand at a booth and wait around for your Internet to work probably sounds unappealing to most people.
In fact one article states that it can take up to 2-3 minutes — a relatively long time in the online world — just to get fully connected to the Internet . It would seem that the Wi-Fi systems would have great potential for signal strength, seeing as you can stand right next to it, but according to the article, it’s “extremely weak.”
2. You Have to Find Somewhere to Sit
Pay phones weren’t built assuming most users would be making long-lasting phone calls. Thus, unless you want to be on your feet, you have to find somewhere to sit within its reach.
Otherwise, you’ll be stuck standing holding your tablet, laptop, or your phone in front of your face until you’ve achieved your online goal for the moment. But be careful, because the farther you get, the weaker the signal will be.
3. There’s Little Demand
These days, endless options exist for Internet access. With many businesses offering Wi-Fi connections, on top of the countless ISP companies offering cheap internet services, it doesn’t seem as if people are begging for the ability to get free internet anywhere at anytime.
Many traditional ISP companies today, such as EarthLink, provide such cheap options that it leaves little incentive for folks to use the payphone’s Wi-Fi. The system doesn’t give great service for anything data-heavy to begin with, so it won’t save you in that area.
4. It’s Unsecured
Information sent over unsecured wi-fi networks can easily land in the wrong hands. Again, Wi-Fi and internet access aren’t hard to find, so why risk using an unsecured network outdoors?
While it’s not incredibly dangerous, it leaves little appeal when most other options are free from this risk. And even though the system has no password security, it won’t fail to annoy you by sending you to a terms and conditions page where you must agree to gain access.
5. What’s New About This?
This might prove the biggest issue: there’s simply no innovation here. Today’s tech industry values innovative and unique ideas, loaded with user-friendly functionality. While Wi-Fi using the existing payphone infrastructure has not been done before, nobody actually invented anything, or provided an unprecedented service. It’s just the same service offered by companies like NetZero and Juno, only lower quality and available in more spots.
It may seem like a cool idea, but without improvements and some sort of innovation, these Wi-Fi spots are unlikely to replace the services we’ve become accustomed to. Traditional ISPs can rest easy, because New York City’s “innovation” poses no threat whatsoever to them.