LinkNYC Free Wi Fi Kiosks in New York

LinkNYC is a first-of-its-kind communications network that will replace over 7,500 pay phones across the New York City with new structures called Links. LinkNYC is completely free because it’s funded through advertising. It is expected to generate more than a half billion dollars in revenue for New York City. 

LinkNYC launched in January 2016 and is currently in its beta phase, giving New Yorkers an early opportunity to try out Link’s features and provide feedback. Additional apps and services will be rolled out on an ongoing basis over the next several years.
Currently it provides:

1. LinkNYC’s super fast, free Wi-Fi to connect personal devices
2. Access to city services, maps and directions
3. Free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S. with the Vonage calling app on the tablet or the tactile keypad, microphone and headphone jack
4. Dedicated red 911 button in the event of an emergency
5. USB port to charge devices
6. ADA-compliant (universally accessible) design with low ground coverage, leaving space on the sidewalk as compared to a conventional phone booth
7. Public service announcements and advertising on two 55” HD displays

In 2014 the de Blasio Administration issued a competitive RFP to repurpose payphone infrastructure with free Wi-Fi, phone calls and advertising. The CityBridge proposal for LinkNYC was chosen for its innovative and community-first approach and was
awarded the 12-year franchise. CityBridge is a consortium of experts in technology, media, user experience and connectivity that includes Intersection, Qualcomm and CIVIQ Smartscapes. The kiosk was designed by Antenna Design.

The initiative will deploy a total of 7,500 Links throughout the city over the next eight years. At no cost to the city or taxpayers, CityBridge, the consortium behind the project, is investing $200 million in building the LinkNYC network (Kleiman, 2016).

Through advertising, LinkNYC comes at zero cost to taxpayers. LinkNYC will generate at least $500 million in revenue for the City over the next 12 years and CityBridge will use revenues to maintain and improve the service; the city and CityBridge will split revenues 50/50 (Kleiman, 2016).

Issues with the deployment of the kiosks:
• User data theft by cyber criminals
• People who linger next to it for hours, monopolising it and blocking the sidewalk
• Use of kiosk for other criminal activities and communication

In order to address the issue, in September 2016, the internet browsing facility was disabled on the kiosk screens, with the exception of websites that provide government services, Wi-Fi phone calls and the city’s 311 complaint centre and 911. As of October 2016, LinkNYC Kiosks can also be used for registering to vote. Hi-Speed Wi-Fi for use on personal devices is still in place.

The Kiosks use Ruckus Wireless’ Wi-Fi technology. It is enabled by Qualcomm’s Vive 802.11 AC Wave 4×4 Chipsets. They use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor and the Adreno 320 Graphic Processing unit. Qualcomm will provide maintenance for the rest of the service lives of the Kiosks and upgrade to the software is expected in 2022 (Shah, 2016). Qualcomm has provided some of the technologies for the Links, which are designed so the networking equipment, processor, tablet and other components can be regularly swapped out and upgraded (Shah, 2016).

“LinkNYC is our response to some of the most pressing challenges facing New York City—and cities around the world—today. How can we provide greater access and connectivity without costing taxpayers a dime? How can we address the digital divide, where more than 25 percent of New Yorkers lack broadband access at home? The single largest opportunity when it comes to this project is its sheer scale and ability to benefit millions of people every day. In addition to more than 8.5 million New Yorkers, we’re also serving 56 million visitors from around the world. Our objective is to ensure LinkNYC creates real value for these diverse populations. LinkNYC is about reimagining the public-private partnership model to bring the incredible innovation of the digital world into our physical streetscape, providing value to New York City with a state-of-the-art new communications network.” – Dave Etherington of CityBridge (Kleiman, 2016)