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Wireless and Mobile Coverage Coming to a Subway Near You (in NYC)

Written on August 5, 2010

If you’ve lost your cell phone reception, odds are good you’re in one of the following places: nowhere, high in the mountains, on an airplane, or riding the subway. If you lose signal in New York particularly, you’re most likely on the subway. Amidst all the rushing and packing of subway cars, there is a strange low-tech calm to the tunnels of the subway system. No texting, no surfing, no business calls, or emails. Transit Wireless is working on changing that.

According to a report from the NY Daily, Transit Wireless and the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York have worked out a new agreement for the subway system. While there has been an existing agreement for almost three years to bring wireless and mobile signals to subway stations, this new agreement will extend that coverage through the tunnels as well. With the agreement set and plan approved, Transit can begin the first step of outfitting six stations in the next two years, to prove the viability of their technology. From there, they will have four more years to complete construction of their network in the rest of New York’s 277 stations.

Not everyone sees this as a wholesale improvement to the quality of NY transit, however. The Straphangers Campaign, a group that monitors the actions of the NY Transit Authority and promotes the interest of the thousands of people who use New York’s public transportation every day. Some will be excited to finally get a signal, says the group – but there will also be plenty of people sad to see this last refuge of “cell-free zone” go. John Timmer at Ars Technica considered this aspect of the deal, saying that while WiFi will definitely be a welcome addition, cell phone usage in the subway might not seem so wonderful when having to listen to half of people’s conversations – as is the case in so much of New York already.

In today’s fast paced world, particularly in a big city, people are expecting to be able to handle their business online and on cell phones just about anywhere. And we’re getting pretty close to having that capability just about everywhere. Should we be considering issues such as cell phone use in crowded public transit situations? Is there ever a time when you find yourself thinking there should be a place around totally free from the sweeping hold of wireless and cellular signals?

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