Free Wi-Fi Is Coming to New York City
The spread of mobile phones across America has led to a disappearance of public pay telephones. In fact, in New York City right now, workers are removing pay phones from the city's streets.
But, pay phones are being replaced by something most people will find more useful: free Wi-Fi kiosks. The LinkNYC program is expected to install 7500 kiosks, or Links, throughout the city over the next few years. The system is in beta testing right now.
New York City will install and maintain them. It will pay for the program, and expects to profit from the Links, through advertising.CityBridge is providing the kiosks. It is an alliance of three companies Qualcomm, Intersection and CIVIQ Smartscapes. Intersection is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
Each Link has two high-definition screens to display advertisements and public service announcements. The kiosks also provide high-speed Wi-Fi Internet access, tablets with Internet access, phone calling within the U.S., emergency phone calls, and USBcharging ports. LinkNYC says Wi-Fi will cover an area of 45 meters around the kiosk.
Wi-Fi speeds are 100 times faster than home networks, according to LinkNYC. Users have been impressed with the speed:
In addition to speed, LinkNYC Wi-Fi offers security. Each kiosk offers two types of Wi-Fi networks, secured and unsecured. By registering with an email account, a user can get a key to connect to an encrypted Wi-Fi network.
Each kiosk has a tablet that runs a secure version of Android to access the Internet, get maps, directions, and information about city services. A phone keypad lets users call U.S. phone numbers for free. Users can press and hold a red button on the kiosk to call emergency services.
Kiosks can also serve as charging stations, with two USB ports that transfer electricity but not data. People are able to connect headphones at the kiosks for privacy and to block city noise.
The kiosks have cameras. The cameras will help record traffic flow, pollution levels, crime and suspicious packages.
Using a LinkNYC Kiosk
If you visit New York City, you may see a LinkNYC kiosk or a pay phone being removed.
A video on YouTube shows how to connect to a LinkNYC kiosk.
If you would like to see LinkNYC come to your town, send an email invitation. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org
The Issues with LinkNYC
The Links program is not without critics. Some neighbors of the kiosks have reported increased noise, with users streaming music, videos and television shows.
Some people are also reporting concern about privacy issues. They worry about the use of cameras on the Links. Still others have questioned the privacy of the personal data that will be collected by the kiosks.
I'm Caty Weaver.