Free Public Wi-Fi for New York City
January 11, 2016
From pay phones to Wi-Fi stations
Dated pay phone booths are being transformed into Wi-Fi stations. Originally announced in November 2014, New York City recently started installing the first of 7,500 Wi-Fi stations for the city’s 5 boroughs. Known as Links, each one will “provide superfast, free public Wi-Fi, phone calls, device charging and a tablet for Internet browsing, access to city services, maps and directions.”
The project dubbed LinkNYC is converting the city’s existing pay phone infrastructure into approximately 9.5-foot tall, slim Wi-Fi hot spot structures. Each hot spot will deliver Wi-Fi connectivity at 1 gigabit per second—about 100 times faster than the average public Wi-Fi and 20 times faster than the average home Wi-Fi in the U.S. The structures will be weather-proof with the ability to withstand hot summer days, snow storms, and floods. They were also designed with no flat surfaces to deter loitering, and each Links has a 911 button for emergencies.
The city intends to install 500 Links by July.
The good (and the bad)
According to New York City officials, this project will help in “modernizing outmoded street phones.” With a growing smartphone industry, it’s no surprise that pay phone usage has declined. The city currently houses 8,200 pay phones, of which 37 percent weren’t functioning last year. Repurposing the pay phones into Wi-Fi hot spots will benefit the people of New York City more.
Free Wi-Fi doesn’t come without privacy concerns because more people using public Wi-Fi could put personal information at risk. But, LinkNYC says the network will be encrypted, and the mayor’s office is working on a privacy statement to prevent information from being shared with third parties.
Whatever the cons are, most people will be happier with more connectivity on the go. From finding a place to eat to looking up directions and avoiding a dead battery during crucial times, Links will bring convenience to the 8 million people living in New York City.
The project is expected to cost $200 million. Several companies combined with advertising revenue will help fund the endeavor. The total amount of revenue from this digital advertising is expected to reach $1 billion over the next 12 years. The city will receive half of the profit, which is much more than the $17 million pay phones bring in annually.
It’s a win-win for New Yorkers. Not only will this public Wi-Fi come at no cost to taxpayers, but it will “create 100 to 150 new full-time manufacturing, technology, and advertising jobs.”
New York City just set the stage for what looks like the future of Wi-Fi connectivity across the nation.