For several years now we’ve been hearing stories about New York City’s public payphone kiosks being turned into Wi-Fi hotspots, and it finally looks like something’s going to happen.
LinkNYC – a group that includes tech, telecom, and ad firms, as well as the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation – plans to begin work next year converting the city’s thousands of payphone kiosks into Link ‘connection points’ offering:
– free 24/7 gigabit Wi-Fi within a 150-foot radius
– free calls to anywhere within the U.S.
– a touchscreen tablet interface offering information on city services and attractions
– a digital display showing ads and public service announcements
– charging functionality for mobile devices
The group behind the plans, which includes chip giant Qualcomm, is promising “the fastest and largest free municipal Wi-Fi deployment in the world,” with the high-tech connection points coming to 10,000 locations throughout the city’s five boroughs.
The initiative will reportedly cost taxpayers nothing, with ads helping to generate more than $500 million in revenue over 12 years. In addition, the project will create as many as 150 full-time jobs in manufacturing, technology, and advertising, plus around 650 support jobs.
The idea of turning the city’s aging payphone kiosks into something useful for the connected community was first mooted by former Mayor Bloomberg a couple of years back.
Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio, seems keen to get things rolling, in May holding a meeting attended by more than 50 companies to explore the plan further and invite proposals.
The first Link locations are set to go into operation toward the end of next year.