Can you download me now? NY payphones become Wi-Fi hot spots

NEW YORK (AP) – Operator, won’t you help me replace this call?

A 9-foot-tall, narrow structure installed this week on a Manhattan sidewalk is signaling a plan to turn payphones into what’s billed as the world’s biggest and fastest municipal Wi-Fi network.

The first of at least 7,500 planned hot spots are due to go online early next year. For now, the couple that have been installed are still being tested.

They promise superfast and free Wi-Fi service, new street phones with free calling, ports to charge personal phones and a no-cost windfall for the city.

Officials say the project is democratizing data access while modernizing outmoded street phones. About 8,200 payphones still dot New York streets.

Some cities nationwide are making renewed pushes for public Wi-Fi after an earlier wave of enthusiasm faded.

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