Payphones aren't quite dead, but they are dying and city officials in Boston are looking for ways to make use of the aging technology. City Councilors Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley will request a hearing tomorrow to discuss turning payphones around the city into Wi-Fi hot spots.
“There is a digital divide between different demographics and socio-economic levels and such a program would expand access to the Internet for more Boston residents,” the two said in a statement.
If the hearing request is granted, city officials will explore the benefits and costs of such a program. Boston's idea to repurpose its payphones could grow into a nationwide trend -- New York City officials announced in July a project to add 10 free Wi-Fi hot spots to payphones in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.
Payphones process more than 1.7 billion calls per year in the U.S., according to the American Public Commissions Council, but that figure has dropped steadily as smartphone and tablet use rises. There were once millions of payphones, but now there are fewer than 500,000, and that number is also declining.