It used to be that part of traveling was the joy of unplugging. Those days are gone, and for travelers, staying connected is the norm, whether that’s to research a destination and plot directions, or to post photos to Facebook and make FourSquare check-ins. But running all that mobile data can get expensive when you travel—and that’s if your device is wired for mobile data. It’s even more challenging for international travelers whose phones and tablets may not have international data agreements, thus leading to high service charges or even (gasp!) a lack of service.
Fortunately, the proliferation of wifi hotspots and free Internet access has been helping alleviate those data charge issues, and in New York City, it’s getting even easier.
The city is, like many others, trying to change the technological landscape by offering more access to free wifi, and it’s not just the usual locations like hotel lobbies and coffee shops. New York has already made a push to offer free wifi at its park benches, and now is even trying to turn its old payphone network into a collection of wifi hotspots.
On their website, NYC Parks & Recreation Department includes a map of free wifi sites in parks, plus information on connecting and safe use. There are 10 free, unlimited data access points in Manhattan alone, from Battery Park to the High Line park and more.
But if you don't plan on spending your day outdoors, Open Wifi NYC catalogs dozens of free wifi spots and includes a variety information on connectivity, including signal strength and power sources. Sort by signal strength or neighborhood, learn more about the location and even get directions via Google Maps. Looking for more access points? Try this well-maintained Google map that plots free wi-fi spots and also check out OpenWiFiSpots.com, which also maintains a map of free wifi access points for New York City.
And those old payphones? Plans are in the works to retrofit them to create some 7,000 new broadband connection points. Mayor Bill de Blasio says the wifi adaptation of the payphones will "significantly enhance public availability" of broadband access, "at absolutely no cost to the taxpayers."
What that all means is that being a digital traveler in New York is about to get a whole lot easier, and you'll be posting Instagrams, tweets and Vines to your heart’s content. (And don’t forget to tag @wheretraveler and @NYC_info to share with us where you’ve been and where you're going next.)