New York To Turn Old Payphones Into Free Municipal WiFi Hot Spots

On Monday, the New City Mayor’s office announced plans to turn old payphones into free municipal WiFi spots. The plan, called LinkNYC, is expected to start offering fast, public WiFi to resident’s by the end of next year. LinkNYC is a public-private partnership between the City and CityBridge, a New York City-based consortium comprised of Qualcomm, Titan, Transit Wireless, and others.

The system is called Links, which are hubs that will provide up to gigabit speeds for users and offer services such as free 24/7 internet access, free phone calls within the US, and access to 911 and 311. Users will also have access to a touchscreen tablet interface that will provide access to city services and give directions, can be used as a free charging station for mobile devices, and will also feature digital displays for advertising and public service announcements.

“LinkNYC will bring the world’s fastest, free municipal WiFi to millions of New Yorkers, small businesses and visitors in all five boroughs,” according to the press release from LinkNYC and CityBridge. “It helps spans the divide between people of various physical, technical and financial abilities to connect all New Yorkers to the opportunities that Internet access affords.”

According to the press release, 10,000 Links will be installed across all five boroughs, with the first structures becoming operational towards the end of next year. The project itself will not cost taxpayers a single penny and is expected to generate over $500 million in revenue over the next 12 years.

As for privacy, when using the free WiFi service, New York City and CityBridge said that they have “created the most robust and forward-thinking privacy policy that is currently available for any municipal WiFi project.”

The press statement goes on to say, “LinkNYC will be one of the first free municipal WiFi services in the country to offer an encrypted network connection between you and the hotspot. We encourage you to continue to use end-to-end encryption, such as HTTPS, for any sensitive matters or data. Devices can access the network without needing to log in and out each time, making the WiFi roaming experience easy-to-use. The network will also prevent peer-to-peer security threats by eliminating the ability to communicate device to device.”

What do you think of LinkNYC?