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In New York subway, free Wi-Fi is a hit

In New York subway, free Wi-Fi is a hit

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With 1.6 billion riders each year, free Wi-Fi in New York's subway is popular with commuters and businesses.

One of the benefits of commuting by transit is the freedom to focus on other things besides traffic -- reading a book, taking a nap, catching up on work. Now New York's subway is adding another benefit to taking the train: free Wi-Fi.

Transit Wireless is building and designing the $200 million network that will connect all 277 of New York's underground subway stations to Wi-Fi by 2017. Boingo Wireless provides the wireless services and Google Offers is the first corporate sponsor. Currently, only six train platforms in the Chelsea neighborhood are connected. And, for now, only T-Mobile and AT&T customers have access. Verizon and Sprint are in negotiations to provide access.

But for riders who can connect, the service has been popular, the Associated Press reports. And it's also popular with businesses who see the Wi-Fi on the subway as a big untapped market for advertisers.

Both companies [Transit Wireless and Boingo Wireless] see the move to wire the subways as a gold mine. Sponsoring Wi-Fi provides companies with the chance to advertise to more than 1.6 billion riders every year. And although Google Offers' sponsorship officially ends on Sept. 7, it could continue. Boingo and Transit Wireless said they have others in the pipeline, in case it doesn't. [...]

"There is an explosion of Wi-Fi utilization right now. There are a lot of new Wi-Fi devices that are entering the marketplace," [Transit Wireless CEO William] Bayne said. "All that is really inviting for sponsors because it really exposes the sponsor's products and services through advertising to billions of ridership over the course of time."

For commuters, which stations are next on the list to get free Wi-Fi? Thirty stations in Manhattan, including Times Square and Columbus Circle. Those stations should be completed by the end of the year.

Photo: Flickr/JeffreyPutman

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure