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Underground Wi-Fi Service Expanding To 30 More Subway Stations

It's All Part Of The MTA's Effort To Have All Stations Wired By 2016

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – More cell phone and Wi-Fi service was headed under ground Thursday as part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s effort to have all subway stations wired by 2016.

After testing Wi-Fi at six stations last year, the MTA has expanded service to 30 additional stations, including Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Columbus Circle.

AT&T and T-Mobile signed 10-year contracts to provide cell and Wi-Fi service through a network being built by Transit Wireless.

As WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reported, the New York City subway system has come a long way in its 110 years of service

“Technology wasn’t even a word back then and almost everything was done with human labor,” MTA Interim Executive Director Thomas Prendergast said at an afternoon news conference. “It means you can check your email, surf the Web or do just about anything you do upstairs while you’re waiting for a train.”

The head of Transit Wireless said emergency situations like Hurricane Sandy and even the recent Boston Marathon bombings, highlight the need for underground access.

“It’ll connect people and allow them, if there is an issue, they have somebody to talk to,” said CEO Bill Bayne. “To help dispatch some support.”

Prendergast added the service provides an additional layer of security.

“Help is just a 911 call away,” said Prendergast.

A "Wi-Fi Here" sign is seen at a subway station in Manhattan on Thursday, April 25, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

A “Wi-Fi Here” sign is seen at a subway station in Manhattan on Thursday, April 25, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Straphangers have been weighing the pros and cons.

“Say if something bad happens, I’m able to call,” one told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams.

“It’s going to be a lot more convenient. You can access your email. You can send text messages. That’s the most frustrating thing about being in the subway system … is that you’re completely cut off from communication with work, with family so it will be really be convenient,” John Dioso of Park Slope told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.

“It’s wonderful. It’s so great, especially when I’m running from appointment to appointment. It’s really wonderful,” said Alicia Eakright of the Upper West Side.

Antennas provide underground wireless voice and data service in the stations and on the platforms. It’s a new window of communication that has some worried about potential terror plots.

“My only concern being a former law enforcement is the detonation stuff. The radio detonation stuff, that’s really my concern,” said Mark Eans of Teaneck, N.J.

“The things we dealt with in New York back in 2001. It’s something that I think is in everybody’s minds,” added Robert Rosales of SoHo.

Another big concern is gadget crime. Last year, the MTA launched a public service campaign urging riders to keep their phones and other electronics out of sight.

Many now wonder if the new opportunity to surf underground will also be an opportunity for criminals.

“It could increase crime, but help in an emergency as well,” one straphanger said.

“More robberies will happen,” another told Adams.

Underground Wi-Fi will also be expanded to Queens by the end of next year, the company had previously announced.

The stations that are already wired for Wi-Fi offer free service to AT&T and T-Mobile customers. On Thursday, Verizon and Sprint also announced that both carriers are finalizing agreements to participate in the network.

The $200 million is being funded entirely by Transit Wireless and the carriers.

The full list of stations now connected is as follows:

  • 23 Street – 8 Avenue: CE Lines
  • 14 Street – 8 Avenue: ACE Lines
  • 14 Street – 7 Avenue: 123 Lines
  • 14 Street – 6 Avenue: FM Lines
  • 14 Street – 8 Avenue: L Line
  • 14 Street – 6 Avenue: L Line
  • 96 Street: BC Lines
  • 86 Street: BC  Lines
  • 28 Street: 1 Line
  • 18 Street: 1 Line
  • 81 Street-Museum of Natural History: BC Lines
  • 72 Street: BC Lines
  • 79 Street: 1 Line
  • 23 Street: 1 Line
  • 96 Street: 123 Lines
  • 66 Street-Lincoln Center: 1 Line
  • 72 Street: 123  Lines
  • 57 Street: F Line
  • 47-50 Streets-Rockefeller Center: BDFM Lines
  • 57 Street-7 Avenue: NQR Lines
  • 28 Street: NR Lines
  • 50 Street: 1 Line
  • 50 Street: CE Lines
  • 23 Street: NR Lines
  • 49 Street: NR Lines
  • 5 Avenue-53 Street: EM Lines
  • 59 Street-Columbus Circle: 1 Line
  • 59 St-Columbus Circle: ABCD Lines
  • 7 Avenue: BDE Lines
  • Times Square-42 Street: 123 Lines
  • Times Square-42 Street: NQR Lines
  • Times Square-42 Street: 7 Line
  • Times Square-42 Street: ACE Lines
  • Times Square-42 Street: S Line
  • 5 Ave.-59 Street: NR Lines
  • 86 Street: 1 Line

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