New York’s WiFi Initiative Expands

Payphones are an oddity on city streets. On one hand, they feel like indispensable parts of the décor. On the other, put one moments worth of thought into them, and you realize they are essentially useless. In an emergency, you may find yourself on a payphone , but the series of “only if” statements that would lead the average person to that point are nearly insurmountable considering the plethora of communication options available to the average pedestrian. Still, there has to be some use for the old payphone booths right?

Right. City officials in New York City are starting a program that will turn city payphones into free, public WiFi hotspots. To start, 10 booths across the city have already been outfitted with the WiFi upgrade, and based on the success of the initial locations, more could be springing up soon. This initiative comes hot off the heels of the recent efforts undertaken by NYC to find a carrier that will provide WiFi to select subway stations throughout the city, and seems to be part of the larger Bloomberg initiative to turn NYC into a friendlier, ultra-modern, personalized utopia.

Politics aside though, a good idea is a good idea, and this is a great one. The act of ducking into a Starbucks for WiFi service is a prolifically proficient means of getting internet service on the go, that’s been the default method for as long as there’s been WiFi and Starbucks. While the number of users turning to 3G and 4G service are growing every day, for the vast number of WiFi patrons still active, this initiative could prove infinitely useful if the city is truly dedicated to creating enough hot spots.

Although I must say it is odd that roaming street gangs loitering on the corners may soon be replaced by roaming hipsters loitering at the WiFi spots. Some call that progress, but frankly the hipsters scare me more.


JetBlue’s revolutionary in-flight Wi-Fi solution? Satellites

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 26:  A JetBlue Airways jet sits on the tarmac at O'Hare Airport October 26, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. JetBlue today announced the start of service to the city. The airline will service New York's JFK Airport and Long Beach Airport from Chicago.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Wait, what? That was exactly my response when I first read the news that JetBlue was introducing new technology for in-flight Wi-Fi service, a new technology called a satellite. For those of you who can’t detect sarcasm, satellites aren’t new. They’ve been around a very long time. For some reason, it has taken this long for an airline to use satellite signals to deliver Wi-Fi access on a plane. Airlines currently offering Wi-Fi services get their signal from the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that this is becoming more widespread. I don’t fly often, but when I do it certainly would be nice to keep up on some reading or even do a little bit of work. This serves to prove, though, just how in-the-box many industries are when it comes to modernizing their services. You’re 35,000 feet up with a clear shot at the upper atmosphere – why in god’s name would you use anything other than a satellite?


In-flight Wi-Fi becomes more popular, bans certain services

In-flight Wi-Fi.In-flight wi-fi is getting a lot more popular, as in popular enough for mass consumption. Unfortunately, that also means airlines are trying to anticipate all the ways wi-fi can be used for evil as much as it can be used to make money. It’s unfortunate because really they have no idea what they’re doing.

Take the case of John Battelle, a happy father on a recent United Airlines flight who just wanted to say goodnight to his kids. He jumped on video chat and was promptly approached by a stewardess who told him that in-flight video chat is illegal. Illegal. Why? The terrorists of course. They could use it to coordinate an attack, you know, since video chat is the only way to communicate in-flight. Email definitely wouldn’t work. Neither would AIM. Twitter. Facebook. Ya know, I’ll stop there. No reason to beat this thing into the ground.

Here’s an excerpt from Battelle’s blog:

So what’s a curious guy to do? To the Internet! Which is exactly what I did. Responses starting pouring in. Including one from a pal at the State Department, who echoed my basic goal: To use video chat to tuck my kids into bed isn’t a crime. Or at least, shouldn’t be.

The flight attendant just showed me the United policy manual which prohibits “two way devices” from communicating with the ground. However, the PLANE HAS WIFI. To combat this, not unlike China, United and other airlines have blocked Skype and other known video chat offenders. Apparently, they missed Apple iChat. Oops.

Oops, indeed. You can bet this will be an ongoing battle between the airlines, our government, and the consumers, most of whom are under the impression that airlines screw them in every way possible.

Source: Battelle Media


Apple pulls Wi-Fi detectors from the App Store

iPhone Wi-Fi detector.In yet another App Store obliteration, Wi-Fi detection apps have been pulled from the App Store without exception. The word from Apple is that these apps, the type that actively scan for wireless networks, use “private frameworks” to locate hotspots, which is a violation of Apple’s terms of use.

“We received a very unfortunate email today from Apple stating that WiFi Where has been removed from sale on the App Store for using private frameworks to access wireless information,” said one developer. Apple declined to say more about the removal.

I think it’s odd that Apple would start to rigorously enforce rules without explanation when so many applications continue to slip through the cracks. The most obvious example is the “titillating content” Apple barred not so long ago, though exceptions were made for both Playboy and Sports Illustrated. As The Register points out, it could be Apple is attempting to streamline everything for the iPad launch, that perhaps the tools to make these apps work won’t be available on the tablet. Even then, why all the secrecy? Why not just say, “we don’t want people exploiting certain parts of our devices for personal use.”