One New York company is hoping to link the city that never sleeps to a level of connectivity never done before — and all for free.
LinkNYC — which brings together the experts of CityBridge and city agencies — is expected to launch its beta phase in mid-January, giving New Yorkers a taste of the “ultra-fast” free public Wi-Fi that is to come.
Over the next few years, LinkNYC will bring Internet access to people all across the five boroughs through a network of over 7,500 Link kiosks — replacing almost every payphone.
"LinkNYC is the first of its kind at work and it’s really designed for New York City and for the density of New York City and the pedestrian way of life,” said Colin O’Donnell, CTO of CityBridge. “This is going to be, when its fully deployed, the fastest and largest free municipal network in the world."
The over 9-foot tall kiosks — which can supports hundreds of devices at a time — will provide users with 1 gigabit per second speed of bandwidth quality through an all-new, purpose-built fiber optic network bringing speeds that are about 100 times faster than average public Wi-Fi.
Along with giving access to free Wi-Fi, the kiosks will also allow users to make free domestic phone calls through a partnership with Vonage. Each will feature a 911 emergency button, two usb ports connected to a power source only, and are all handicap accessible.
"We believe this is going to transform Internet usage in a way that we almost cannot imagine yet,” said Jenn Hensley, general manager for LinkNYC. “What we’ve designed we think is a really robust system that will bring maximum connectivity to the most users possible.”
When asked about the possibility of any vandalism striking the kiosks, O’Donnell added that each are built out of aluminum and as robust structures which can withstand extreme weather conditions. Each also features sensors that can tell if and when it is being banged up, and security cameras.
"If you build a product that provides a great service that people love, people tend not to abuse it,” O’Donnell said.
The idea of LinkNYC came after the de Blasio administration issued a call for proposals that would repurpose payphone infrastructures with free Wi-Fi, phone calls and advertising. CityBridge’s proposal was chosen and awarded a 12-year franchise.
LinkNYC will be funded through advertising, which will appear on the two side screens on each kiosk.
"With LinkNYC we believe we will achieve success like no city has seen before and the world is watching,” said Anne Roest, commissioner of the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.
For the beta phase, which will go on until all kinks and issues are resolved, there will be 10 to 15 kiosks installed in Manhattan up Third Avenue, which currently already has two kiosks set up – but not yet working.
During the first few weeks the network will be opened for the public to sign on to use the Wi-Fi and in February, LinkNYC will deploy the rest of the features — such as the domestic calling and tablet interface.
Once all issues are fixed, and the public’s input is taken into account, the full line of kiosks will be launched.
At least 510 kiosks will be installed across the five boroughs by July 2016 including areas such as Third Avenue and Eighth Avenue above 14th Street in Manhattan; northern Manhattan; South Bronx; Jamaica, Queens; Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn; and St. George in Staten Island.