NYC issues RFP for free citywide Wi-Fi service

New York City has issued an RFP for a Franchise Contract running to June 24, 2026 for the installation, operation and maintenance of more than 7300 pay phones to provide free Wi-Fi service, phone services and advertising in all of the city’s 5 boroughs. The franchisee will not be allowed to charge a fee for Wi-Fi but it can charge for phone service (with the exception of 911 and 311 calls). The franchisee will be allowed to:

  • install cell phone charging stations and charge a fee for this service;
  • install solar panels or other viable features that promote sustainability for incorporation into the advertising/Wi-Fi/phone structures; and
  • incorporate other telecommunications services that complement those listed above.

Compensation to be paid to the city will be the greater of (a) a percentage of gross revenues derived by the franchisee as a result of the operation of the pay phones and the display of advertising thereon or (b) a guaranteed minimum annual amount.

The suggested minimum annual compensation for the proposed guaranteed minimum annual amount of compensation for the initial year is twenty million dollars ($20,000,000). The proposed guaranteed minimum annual amount of compensation may be no less than $17,500,000 and the percentage of gross revenues may be no less than 50%.

Responses are due no later than Monday, July 21, 2014 at 17:00 EST. There is a pre-Proposal Conference on 12 May 2014 (contact the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications for details).

Here are the requirements for Wi-Fi service (excerpt from the RFP):

The Wi-Fi service must be provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and must provide a signal strong enough to reach a minimum of 85 feet across a busy street. The Wi-Fi hotspots should work together as a network. A user should be able to log in once and stay connected while within 85 feet of any hotspot. The user’s device should be allowed to automatically re-connect after a connection has been severed and the user comes within the range of one of the network’s hotspots. The City will allow advertising on the login page. Revenue from such advertising will be considered a part of gross revenues.

The city is asking for a lot of money from the franchisee and it’s clear that this money has to be made from advertising. Nevertheless, this is an innovative project — a way to get free Wi-Fi access across all of New York City using very valuable city property (pay phones) which are on street level and visible to the large numbers of people walking around New York every day (therefore, perfect for advertising — like those bus shelters).

Read the entire RFP posted on Scribd.

NOTE: Didn’t Verizon turn its pay phones into public Wi-Fi hotspots several years ago?

SEE ALSO: From pay phones to Wi-Fi hotspots