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Is there a less relevant piece of equipment in 2016 - a time of cell phone ubiquity - than the pay phone?

Quick: How much does a local phone call cost when made from a payphone? The answer has to be offered without consulting Google.

Now, the Associated Press reports, New York City and a consortium of technology companies are collaborating to convert at least 7,500 of the city's still-extant 8,200 pay phone booths into hot spots, creating "what’s billed as the world’s biggest and fastest municipal Wi-Fi network." City officials describe the project as "democratizing data access while modernizing outmoded street phones."

The story notes that "68 percent of Americans own smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center on Internet, Science & Technology," and that more than a third of the city's pay phones are inoperable ... all of which creates a context in which the conversion makes sense.

The $200 million cost of the conversion will be absorbed by the tech companies, which will look to make up for it by selling digital advertising on the booths, on which they'll get 50 percent of the revenue, estimated to be as much as $1 billion over the first 12 years. The city gets the other 50 percent - substantially more than the $17 million a year it gets from payphone revenue now.
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