First stage of NYC 'WiFi in the Parks' project finally underway

New York (NY) - Just a few days after public meetings cited the need for free municipal wireless Internet access in public parks, and a New York Times editorial yesterday echoed citizens' calls for such a service, Nokia announced this morning it has reached an agreement with the Parks Dept. to become a "primary provider" of mobile multimedia services for 18 locations throughout ten public parks.

In mid-May, the Dept. set a mid-July deadline for WiFi services to be fully established and running, after a three-year delay during which Internet service providers were reportedly underwhelmed by the prospect of bidding for the rights to supply free service. A pilot project for municipal WiFi had been launched in June 2002 in Bryant Park, though it took a considerably long time for people to finally notice Google's sponsorship of that effort. Today's announcement from Nokia indicates that sponsorship of the new citywide push will come with a larger dose of free publicity.

The precise nature of these multimedia services, according to Nokia's statement this morning, may be limited to the type accessible through Nokia's own brand of handset devices, including the N91 introduced just last month. "Local media partners," Nokia stated, will co-brand these services during a summer promotion. The contract for WiFi service infrastructure was already awarded to a firm called WiFi Salon, so it won't be Nokia providing the WiFi itself. Dissecting Nokia's statement this morning, its contract with the Dept. does not appear to be exclusive, and its term appears limited to the summer.

Yesterday, the Times reported that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing a plan by his city's Economic Development Commission to investigate the option of developing WiFi service throughout the entire city.