New York City has a plan to revamp the antiquated pay phones dotting city streets throughout the five boroughs.
Mayor Bill De Blasio unveiled a plan to transform thousands of public phones into information booths that provide free Wi-Fi access, free calls to anywhere in the United States, complimentary phone charging and a touchscreen featuring access to city services. Dubbed LinkNYC, the nearly 10 feet tall booths will provide Wi-Fi range from 150 feet in any direction for up to 250 devices, according to the New York Times.
But don’t expect the typical slow, public Wi-Fi. The network will be 100 times faster than average municipal systems and more than 20 times faster than average home internet service in the city, according to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. That means a two-hour movie could be potentially downloaded in about 30 seconds.

“It’s going to help us close the digital divide,” says Maya Wiley, counsel to Mayor De Blasio.

The city awarded the bid to build the kiosks to CityBridge, a conglomerate of companies, including Qualcomm and Titan, and plans to roll out the hotspots beginning of next year. Approximately 10,000 will be installed across the five boroughs, with a weekly check-in to ensure they haven’t been vandalized.
The city plans to pay for the program through advertising revenues from digital displays featured on the booths. De Blasio says, the program will come at “no-cost to taxpayers and generate more than $500 million in revenue for the city over the next 12 years.” CityBridge is planning to create a local agency for maintenance and repair, which will add to the 100 to 150 new full-time jobs expected to come with the LinkNYC program.
For those who still rely on old-fashioned pay phones, CityBridge said it plans to keep three existing “Superman pay phones” along the West End Avenue, where some traditional phone booths have endured.
“With this proposal for the fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world — accessible to and free for all New Yorkers and visitors alike — we’re taking a critical step toward a more equal, open and connected city,” De Blasio says, “for every New Yorker, in every borough.”
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