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New York Subway Opens its Doors to Wi-Fi

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The New York Subway is opening its doors to Wi-Fi.

New Wi-Fi access in some New York subways means commuters can get a little more bang for their smartphone buck, checking Google Maps for directions or emailing a note to their boss as they wait for their subway train. But the rest of us may also have to endure a steadier stream of Facebook updates and Tweets: “I’m at the subway station.” “I’m getting on the train.” “Stuck between stops. This train is soooo slow!”

This week, four New York subway stations opened their doors to Wi-Fi service. It will be rolled out to the remaining 271 underground stations within four years. The next to go wireless will be Times Square, Herald Square and Columbus Circle. Chicago and Boston already have Wi-Fi at some of their subway stations.

From a practical perspective, Wi-Fi on the subway could give commuters a chance to check on their kids or even contact the emergency services, says Jay H Walder, chairman and CEO of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Wireless service will bring the conveniences we’re used to throughout our lives into the subway system,” he said in a statement.

But some social commentators remain skeptical. Daniel Post Senning, etiquette expert and spokesman at the Emily Post Institute, says subway Wi-Fi could make a crowded commute even more bothersome – especially if those people have their noses buried in their phones. “There are already a lot of people in our cities on their devices who don’t watch where they’re going,” he says.

Pay Dirt readers, how would you use subway Wi-Fi?

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.