Two hundred and fifty pay phones in New York City will be replaced with “smart screens” connected to the Internet next month, the Post reports. It’s a pilot program; if successful, such tablet computer-like interfaces will replace every pay phone in the city. The 32-inch screens will “display local neighborhood information, including lists of nearby restaurants, store sales in the area, traffic updates, landmark information and safety alerts—in multiple languages,” the paper reports. A special button will connect you to 311. Eventually, you should be able to use the machines to check your email or make a call on Skype; they could also serve as WiFi hotspots.
The city won’t have to pay anything for the units, and if the pilot program is a success, it will get 36 percent of the ad revenue. The city currently makes $18 million a year from pay phones, between advertising and calls—which must break down to $17,999,999.75 from advertising and $0.25 from that one person who used a pay phone last year because his or her cell phone died.
Critics of the plan note that smart phones already do much more than these Tablets Lite, that “everybody” already has a smart phone, and thus these are a waste of money. Supporters contend that not literally everybody has a smart phone. New York Post commenters also say these’ll be a waste of money, because “as usual, the animals will destroy” them.
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