Free Wi-Fi Goes Underground as NYC Subway Stations Get Connected

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A NYC subway platform (photo by Kate Hinds)

(Daniel Tucker -- New York, NY, WNYC) Six subway stations in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood now have free Wi-Fi as part of a program bringing cell phone, data and Internet access to 36 stations by the end of 2012.

Many subway riders were pleasantly surprised by the news as they went through the turnstiles at 14th Street and 7th Avenue to catch the 1, 2 or 3 trains on Monday. Igor Salay was already using the hotspot to check his email.

"Nice speed. Very fast," said Salay, 30, an MTA employee who fixes MetroCard machines. "Perfect."

Not everyone was so bullish on the new service.

"In the future, nobody will want to speak to each other," said 79-year-old Harold Arnold. He prefers talking to texting and wishes the subway would remain the last bastion against a connected culture.

He lamented that an above-ground trend — texting youths crashing into him on the sidewalk — might now extend to the subway platform. "People are like zombies walking around the city," he said.

The wired stops include stations at 6th, 7th and 8th Avenues at 14th Street, as well as the C/E station at 23rd Street.

Google Offers is sponsoring the first phase of the subway’s free Wi-Fi hotspots roll out — for a total of 36 stations. Wi-Fi provider Boingo will bring the service to 277 subway stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx over the next several years.