In less than five years, smart phones have become a critical part of modern life. That point was driven home last fall when Hurricane Sandy slammed into the northeast corridor, knocking out power to wide areas of the New York City metro.
The result was communication chaos. Millions of people now have no wired telephone account, relying solely on their cell phones for contact with family, friends and work.
Cell phone providers quickly restored power to their networks through emergency generators, but it turned out to be of little use to customers after a day or two. With no electricity, smart phone batteries quickly ran down. Sandy, it seems, exposed the Achilles heel of wireless communication in a blackout.
Now, less than a year after the storm, New York City and AT&T are embarking on an ambitious program to provide free cell phone charging stations around the city. They will be there in an emergency, or simply when locals are on the go and discover their phones need a charge.
AT&T calls the pilot project “Street Charge” and is basing it on the temporary charging stations it set up in Sandy's aftermath. But instead of the generators it brought in to provide power, these new permanent charging stations will be powered by solar energy.
Before the end of the summer AT&T expects to deploy some 25 charging stations across the city's five boroughs. There are two solar mobile charging units now live at Fort Greene Park. Charging stations will next come online at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier I, Governor's Island, and Pier 1 at Riverside Park and Union Square Park.
"Thanks to AT&T, more New Yorkers will have improved connectivity and access to the wireless technology that has become such an important part of our daily lives," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "After Hurricane Sandy, I asked our private sector partners to step up and help improve the resiliency of New York City. AT&T is doing just that, and we're grateful for their efforts."
Where to find charging stations