- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2015

The company behind a high-tech type of garbage can that’s already being used to collect trash data throughout Manhattan is asking the mayor’s office for help in getting those bins to begin broadcasting free wireless Internet across New York City.

Massachusetts-based Bigbelly, a self-styled “smart waste management company,” has deployed solar-powered garbage cans across the United States and abroad that are outfitted with specialized sensors that log statistics in real-time about the containers and their contents.

By “leveraging renewable solar energy and information technology,” the company says, it is on the way to transforming the garbage collection industry as it exists today.

Now after having grown from just 16 bins in Lower Manhattan to 174 in less than three years, Bigbelly has appealed to New York Mayor Michael de Blasio in an effort to secure a grant that could not only work toward making the city less smelly, but also bring Wi-Fi to millions of potential users.

“We are a smart solar-powered, connected technology platform that is literally sitting in the streets of New York,” Leila Dillon, Bigbelly’s vice president of global marketing, told CityLab. “We are exactly where the people are.”

Bigbelly said it conducted a test run last winter in downtown Manhattan in which two of its bins were equipped to send Wi-Fi signals and successfully provided speeds in upwards of 75 megabits per second — fast enough to download a movie in just 9 minutes, the company says. It’s also enough speed to run a small business, said Jeremy Schneider of Downtown Alliance, a research group that helps provide services throughout Lower Manhattan and that assisted with last year’s trial.

Bigbelly is asking the mayor’s office for a grant that would bring free Wi-Fi to underserved neighborhoods throughout the area, Popular Science reported. And while corporate contracts, telecom regulations and bureaucratic red-tape may make the company’s plan far from easy to achieve, news of their efforts comes amid Mr. de Blasio’s own calls for bringing free Internet to more New Yorkers.

His administration has been a major proponent recently of a program aimed at putting Wi-Fi hotspots in roughly 10,000 old phone booths. Earlier this week, the city announced it will spend $10 million to bring free Internet to more than 16,000 residents of area housing projects.

“Broadband is as important today as access to electricity and running water was at the end of the 19th century,” Maya Wiley, a counsel to the mayor, told The Associated Press this week with respect to the housing project plan. “It’s about equity. Without Internet, you are at a disadvantage, whether it is doing your homework or accessing government services.”

The “LinkNYC” phone booth program could generate $500 million in its first 12 years of operation through advertisements and other revenue, city officials said.

Last fiscal year, Bigbelly’s Lower Manhattan receptacles collected more than 367 tons of waste.

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