In what may be a major blow to backers of Wi-Fi metro networks, telco Verizon Communications Inc. will shutter its 802.11 wireless network in the Big Apple in favor of subsidiary Verizon Wireless' planned wireless broadband network expansion in the city.

The Wi-Fi hotspot service allowed Verizon Online Internet access customers free use of wireless broadband connections throughout the city. Rolled out in mid-2003, the network of hotspots was based on 380 wireless access points installed atop telephone booths throughout the city.

The decision came as Verizon Wireless announced plans to accelerate its Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) wireless network in New York City and the surrounding metro area, in part prompted by a challenge from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to boost the city's access to the latest in broadband communications technology. It also is tied to Verizon Wireless' January launch of its V-CAST broadband multimedia content service.

Offered primarily to laptop computer users, access to the BroadbandAccess EV-DO network offers throughputs typically between 400 to 700 kilobytes per second downstream, and about 100 kbps upstream. It is offered for $79.99 to customers who sign up for a one- or two-year wireless phone contract.

The V-CAST multimedia content service costs $15 monthly, allowing access to a variety of video and interactive games via three EV-DO wireless phone models.

Verizon Wireless has already funneled $138 million into network upgrades in the city in 2005. The plan is to expand the EV-DO network by Labor Day into Queens, Westchester and Rockland counties, the south shore of Long Island, and in Bergen, Morris, Somerset, Middlesex and Monmouth counties in New Jersey.

"Businesses and consumers are enjoying the productivity and entertainment benefits of both V CAST and BroadbandAccess in New York and the region today," said Charles Hand, Verizon Wireless' New York Metro regional president, in a release. "We are now accelerating our high-speed network build in the New York metropolitan area, responding to both the Mayor's goal of expanding New York's lead, as well as to stay ahead of customer demand."