New York Replacing Pay Phones with Wi-Fi Pillars

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Thursday, November 20th, 2014
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New York City will soon embark upon one of the biggest public Wi-Fi projects ever undertaken with LinkNYC, an ambitious proposal encompassing all five boroughs of the Big Apple.

The project entails the replacement of up to 10,000 aging and increasingly obsolete public pay phones with “Links” – fixed internet pillars that bear an uncanny resemblance to gigantic smartphones.

The internet pylons come equipped with consoles that provide free public Wi-Fi at gigabit speeds, as well as a touchscreen tablet interface enabling users to access information on city services and local directions.

The Wi-fi pillars will remain in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to providing encrypted Wi-Fi network connections, they will also provide free domestic phone calls and serve as charging stations for mobile devices.

The ambitious Wi-fi proposal is the result of a public-private collaboration between the mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and CityBridge – a New York City-based collective of leading experts in technology, advertising, connectivity and user experience.

CityBridge itself was formed for the express purpose of developing a blueprint for providing the fastest possible free municipal Wi-Fi in New York.

While the ubiquity of smartphones and other mobile devices threatens to render the venerable public phone booth a relic of the past, LinkNYC promises to make telecommunications pillars an enduring feature of modern streetscapes by altering their functionality to suit a different era.

The Links will enhance the access of New York pedestrians to information, while simultaneously producing jobs in the local economy for the development, servicing and maintenance of this revamped form of telecommunications infrastructure.

LinkNYC is also extremely ambitious when it comes bandwidth, promising to provide gigabit speeds over a Wi-Fi network which it claims will be “100 times faster than the average public Wi-Fi and more than 20 times faster than the average home Internet service in NYC.”

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These are highly extravagant claims, given that most Wi-Fi networks in use today are unable to support sustained gigabit connections from individual devices.

Another key virtue of LinkNYC will be its remarkable cost-benefit profile. Its backers believe the proposal can be funded completely by means of the revenues derived from advertising on the large screens adorned the sides of each Link.

They believe that in addition to being “built at no cost to taxpayers,” the project could also become a significant source of revenue for NYC, generating over half a billion dollars during its first 12 years of operation.

The first LinkNYC internet pillars are slated to commence operation by the second half of the year.

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