Civic News
Digital access / Internet / Municipal government

New York City to use streetlights as WiFi hotspots?

The proposal was floated in the Post this week. It would be an interesting idea, taking the infrastructure of the 20th century and using it for the 21st.

A streetlight in Sunset Park. (Photo by Flickr user Michael Fleshman, used under a Creative Commons license)

The New York Post reported this week that the city is considering plans to light the city with WiFi by retrofitting streetlights as wireless hotspots.

The plan is according to unnamed sources by the Post, which…okay…but it was not met with an outright denial from the city. Reporter Anna Sanders writes that the city “wants to turn streetlights into high-speed public Wi-Fi hotspots as part of a plan to boost Internet access across all five boroughs.”

It would be an interesting idea! Using existing infrastructure for new technologies makes a lot more sense than trying to build a completely new one. We reported on something similar last month down in Park Slope, where Councilman Brad Lander has convinced the city and LinkNYC to use the WiFi kiosks planted all over the city to also show the waiting time for buses along the B63 route.

The idea of using streetlights could also work for deploying 5G technology in the city. One of 5G’s biggest challenges is how comparatively weak the signals are. Even though they are capable of transmitting way more data, they can’t go through thick walls and geographical features the way the sturdier, current 4G cellular and WiFi wavelengths do.

One idea is to simply broadcast from more places in dense cities, essentially flooding dense places with signals to overcome their weaknesses. Perhaps this could be a method for that. There has even been talk of the government building a 5G network, the merits of which we reported on last month, as a means of overcoming the difficulties of having private corporations do it.

Outgoing New York CTO Miguel Gamino didn’t respond to an immediate request for confirmation of this story, but we’ll add that if he does.

What would be the challenges such an idea would face? Presumably there would be a bit of regulatory red tape to get though, plus the question of cutting up the sidewalk for trenches if that’s needed to connect the poles, plus questions of legality and rights.

The Post article is well worth a full read.

Read the full story
Companies: City of New York
Series: Brooklyn

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