The city’s ancient network of pay phones will be replaced with an advertisement-supported, free Wi-Fi network that will allow for no-charge calls to anywhere in the United States. CityBridge, a consortium of technology, media, communications and design firms, is the winner of a request for proposals to replace the city’s 6,400 pay phone installations and will begin introducing up to 10,000 “LinkNYC,” devices, known as Links, across the five boroughs next year. The city had already been piloting these free Wi-Fi hotspots at payphone locations for the past two years.
The Links — which look like giant, sleek aluminum thumb drives plugged into the sidewalk , like the one above— were designed to fit in with the city’s landscape. They will provide free hot spots offering Wi-Fi at speeds 100 times faster than current public Wi-Fi and 20 times faster than home Wi-Fi. That means users will be able to access information for the city, make video calls on the devices. The Links will also serve as cellphone charging stations, allow people to call 911 and 311, users can make calls by using the touchscreen and the multi-directional microphones. For a little privacy, users will be able to plug in their headsets. Under the current contract, which runs until 2026 with an option to extend it until 2029, CityBridge will install 7,500 Links within the first six years with the option to expand to 10,000. Eventually, the city will leave only three pay phones in Manhattan, which have phone booths, as homage to “living New York City history,”
For those concerned about privacy, CityBridge says they will not share or sell “protected personal information” and Users will be protected with an encrypted network. And guess what, at no cost to taxpayers. LINK