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Council members to review WiFi deal in NYC parks

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parks Photo Credit: Getty Images

Since parks are free, should the Internet in parks be free, too?

That’s a question two City Council committees will tackle Wednesday after a proposal by two cable giants to provide WiFi in 32 parks.

Under the proposal, users would have access to free Internet service, courtesy of Time Warner and Cablevision, three times a month for up to 10 minutes per session.

If they want to use it more, they’ll get charged a daily 99-cent fee. Existing Cablevision and Time Warner customers would pay nothing.

Dana Spiegel, executive director of the nonprofit NYCWireless, which runs free wireless hotspots in the city, said putting a cap on “free” WiFi is “absolutely unconscionable.”

While the City Council doesn’t have final say over the deal (eventually a state commission has to OK it), it’s trying to gather info on how it would work.

Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-West Bronx), who chairs the technology committee, is concerned about the cost for users, but wants to learn more about the proposal, his spokesman said.

The city in September agreed to renew Cablevision and Time Warner’s franchises as part of a deal that included them investing $10 million to install WiFi service in city parks.

Under the deal the city would — at no cost — have a “sustainable model for WiFi in underserved public parks,” said Carole Post, commissioner of the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

The city last tried to offer free WiFi at 10 city parks in 2008, but the deal fell through after the contractor couldn’t get enough corporate sponsors.

A Time Warner spokeswoman could not say when a final deal would be reached with the city. Cablevision, which owns amNewYork, said its wireless service “has proven to be very popular with our customers.”

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