AT&T planning free Wi-Fi in NYC parks

Posted by Mark Raby

It seems free Internet access is popping up all over the place these days, and now public parks are getting added to that list.

AT&T has reached a deal with the City of New York to install free Wi-Fi technology at 20 parks, including Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

Of course, many of the city's parks are only a few blocks in diameter, so 20 of these smaller parks might not even be the size of Central Park.

By comparison, a typical NYC park is the size of one or two Starbucks, and AT&T was able to pretty successfully set up complimentary wireless access at every Starbucks location in the country.

This is part of a bigger story for AT&T, which has been strengthening its presence outside the typical smartphone market with increasing fervor after it lost iPhone exclusivity.

For example, AT&T is the one that powers the Kindle 3G's free lifetime wireless access and it also recently signed on the exclusive provider of 3G mobile data service for Sony's upcoming Playstation Vita handheld.

The NYC Parks plan spans five years, with no specific rollout schedule of which parks will get connected first, although AT&T has already completed the install at Battery Bosque in Battery Park, which is in the Financial District of lower Manhattan.

With all the Starbucks, McDonald's, parks, and existing free hotspots splashed all across New York, we have to wonder how many people never have to pay for any Internet access.

AT&T did not discuss any plans to bring the same initiative to other public parks across the country, though given its rapid expansion of services, we expect it won't be too long before someone, somewhere will get another block of free Wi-Fi.