So, does that mean all the people now lounging in lawn chairs and milling around the closed-off Times Square have the added benefit of fast Internet access? Not necessarily.
A usage report earlier this year by NYCwireless, a nonprofit group that's set up public WiFi networks in New York City parks such as Bryant Park, found connecting to the Web via the CBS Mobile Zone to be spotty at best. "Well, it's not hopeless, but CBS is definitely not blanketing the area with WiFi the way they made it sound in the press release," wrote NYCWireless' Klaus Ernst in a post on WiF-Fi Net News in January.
My own experience using the service periodically in the last couple of years matches up with that assessment, typically failing to get a strong enough signal to go online. Certainly, midtown Manhattan has to be one of the tougher places to create a WiFi network given the density of tall buildings and "noise" from competing WiFi signals.
Can't the Tiffany network do better?
CBS Interactive President Quincy Smith said last week that the network hasn't had a lot of complaints about the WiFi service, which it started as a six-month pilot program with the MTA and technology providers including Tropos, BIG, Fon and Ning. CBS has mainly supplied buildings and billboards to house the network's 18 transmitters and other WiFi gear placed at various midtown locations.
Smith said the Mobile Zone has attracted a small but loyal user base, with people using it 2.5 to 3 hours a month on average. "What we're hoping is that as the summer months progress we'll have more people coming to it," he said, noting that CBS plans to do more marketing for the WiFi service. Signs above certain subway stops have been used to help promote it so far.
For now, don't expect to pull up a chaise lounge in Times Square and watch CSI on your laptop.