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New York Subway Getting Wired
A plan to bring WiFi and cellular service to NYC's subway system is back on track. Photo via NY Daily News.

A plan to bring Wi-Fi and cellular service to NYC's subway system is back on track. Photo via NY Daily News.

New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has been testing Wi-Fi technology and cellular service in its subway system for a few years now. And back in 2007, the city made a deal with Transit Wireless to wire all of the city’s subway stations for cell phone and internet service. But plans to outfit the stations were put on “terminal hold” because of concerns that Transit Wireless was not financially sound.

Now, the city has finally given Transit Wireless the notice to proceed after the company recruited an Australian partner — Broadcast Australia — to lock in funding.

Once the project is complete, riders will have cell phone and Wi-Fi service on the platforms, mezzanines, and other parts of all of the city’s 277 stations but not on the trains.

Reviews of the plan are mixed. As the Village Voice points out, it will potentially double “everyone’s quota of what they would probably rather not see or hear on their morning commute,” and kill those rare meditative moments that NYC transit riders get when they descend to below-ground stations and lose cell phone service.

Ultimately, however, while the plan may lead to an exponential rise in the number of private conversations that New Yorkers overhear everyday, wiring the stations will also make them safer, and more appealing to many travelers. It will allow riders to report any problems — or upload videos of funny subway rats — online in real time and allow crews to respond much more quickly to emergencies.

Boston recently completed the installation of cell phone service along 11 miles of the Orange Line, the first of its four lines to get end-to-end service. While riders enjoy the service, transit officials say cell phone theft is on the rise.

Cell phone service is also already available on many parts of the Washington D.C. Metrorail, but only for Verizon Wireless and Sprint phones roaming on the Verizon network. Last year, Metro announced plans to expand cell phone and Wi-Fi service on its system over the next few years, installing Sprint Nextel, AT&T and T-Mobile infrastructure along with Verizon.

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