Last year, the city announced the LinkNYC plan that will see 10,000 hotspots built, most of them taking up the real estate currently held by payphones.
A 9-foot-tall, narrow structure installed this past week on a Manhattan sidewalk is signalling to the plan to turn pay phones into the world's biggest and fastest municipal Wi-Fi network with not only free one gigabit wi-fi, but also free domestic calling, Internet browsing, and USB charging.
The first of at least 7,500 planned hot spots are due to go online early next year, with the first two being located on Manhattan's Third Avenue in the East Village. Link Kiosks will be installed all across the five boroughs including downtown and northern Manhattan, south Bronx, Jamaica, Queens, Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn and St. George, Staten Island.
"It's going to be the largest and fastest public Wi-Fi network in the world," Collin Odonell, managing member of CityBridge, said in a press briefing. "It's really the first of this kind of network and it's going to transform the streets and people's way to access information."
LinkNYC is estimated to cost more than $200 million—but it won’t be funded by taxpayers. Instead, private investors will provide initial capital and ad space on the sides of the kiosks will pay ongoing costs. The ads are expected to generate at least twice the revenue as the payphones they're replacing.
NYC isn’t the only city gearing towards free WIFi. Boston is working to expand a "Wicked Free WiFi" network with over 170 hot spots, and Los Angeles is encouraging private companies to provide free basic wireless to all homes and businesses, with outdoor coverage as a goal.
- Devashree Goenka