Verizon unwires New York

IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

Verizon Communications Inc. flipped the "on" switch Tuesday on 150 Wi-Fi access points located around New York City, launching an outdoor wireless network the company hopes will attract subscribers to its Verizon Online Internet access service.

The access points, dubbed Verizon HotSpots and built into the company's pay-phone kiosks, offer high-speed connections in a radius of up to 300 feet (91 meters). Verizon Online subscribers can access the network for free, using Wi-Fi-equipped devices such as laptop or handheld computers.

A map of the HotSpots is available online at http://www.verizon.com/wifi/. Verizon will be updating the map as new HotSpots are added. By the end of the year, the company intends to have 1,000 active throughout the city.

Verizon also lowered prices and raised the maximum available speeds Tuesday on its consumer and small-business-targeted DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) subscription packages.

Verizon's DSL service now starts at US$29.95 per month when purchased in conjunction with the company's phone services, down from $34.95 per month. The price tag for stand-alone DSL service also dropped, to $34.95, down from a minimum of $49.95.

The maximum download speed available through Verizon Online DSL was increased to 1.5M bps (bits per second), up from 768K bps.

The goal of the changes, particularly the Wi-Fi network rollout, is to make the broadband experience better for Verizon Online's subscribers, and to draw new customers to the service, said Michael Lanier, Verizon's broadband wireless Internet marketing director.

Verizon declined to discuss which other cities it might be considering for similar Wi-Fi networks, but assuming all goes well in New York, the company does plan to enter other markets, Lanier said.

At a launch event in Madison Square Park, Verizon staff offered passers-by a chance to surf on several wirelessly connected demo laptops, and distributed subway maps highlighting HotSpot zones.

New York is already a relatively Wi-Fi-equipped city. Volunteer-run nonprofit NYCWireless has for years advocated for and helped construct free public wireless access points. Earlier this month, the Downtown Alliance, an advocacy group for lower Manhattan, began establishing free Wi-Fi spots throughout its district.

Verizon's Lanier said the company doesn't view those free efforts as competition, since Verizon's Wi-Fi network is intended as a perk for its broadband customers, rather than a stand-alone service.

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