Wi-Fi service coming to NYC's livery cars

August 4, 2010 2:54:29 PM PDT
The plan is simple: install Wi-Fi transmitters in enough livery cars to establish a roaming network that provides free, ad-supported web access and not just to passengers.

"It's not just coverage inside the vehicle, but it's up to 16 people around the vehicle also enjoy the free Wi-Fi service," Alex Mashinsky said.

Mashinsky, owner of Res Limo and Cars and the technology company Groundlink, has combined his resources in an effort to keep New Yorkers connected.

We found the wired vehicles did exactly what was promised: allowed free internet access to users inside the car and to anyone using a wireless device outside, say on the sidewalk.

That's not all.

"You can charge ten different types of cellphones right off this one charging station right here. Blackberries, iPhones, iPads. You name it. You can charge it in the car on the go," IT director Chase Hernandez explained.

The idea is for the back of the livery car to become the passenger's mobile office. Something Kim Williams, the owner of an online store, likes.

"If you have a meeting that you're running to and you need to send an email, it is a great idea," she said.

Mashinsky expects to have about a thousand cars Wi-Fi ready by the fall. Twenty-five-thousand in New York City alone over the next few years.

Then, the long term plan is to establish a similar Wi-Fi network overseas.

"Being disconnected if it's in the car, on the airplane or in the subway system is just not something that is acceptable," Mashinsky said.

Service can potentially be uneven because the cars move.

Maskinsky says adding more cars and new technology should change that.

Mashinsky is also part of a venture to provide Internet and cell phone service in subway stations.