In 2012, Mayor Bloomberg first kick-started a pilot program to overhaul the thousands of useless pay phones that dot New York City's streets, launching a design competition that elicited sweet, sweet futuristic visions of Wi-Fi, charging stations, and even weathervanes of sorts that would record rainfall and pollution levels. Yesterday, after issuing his own request for proposals in May, Bill de Blasio heaved the gargantuan project one step further, announcing that the city picked a winning vendor. And that vendora consortium called CityBridgehas produced a plan that (yes!) includes free Wi-Fi hotspots, free domestic calls, charging stations, and screens with "access to city services" and directions. (Guess the weathervane concept didn't make the cut, but you can always look up the weather on your Wi-Fi enabled cellphone.)
Now for the numbers: $200 million plan will result in 10,000 tall, skinny kiosks (called "Links") installed across the city, while virtually all of the 8,400 phone booths of yesteryear can just go join the others in the Pay Phone Graveyard at 135th Street and 12th Avenue.
The whole shebang is called LinkNYC, and there's an entire website dedicated to it. CityBridge will start installing the kiosks in early 2015, according to the city, "with the first structures to begin replacing existing public pay telephones by the end of the year." Important: the Links will contain screens for display advertising, its main source of revenue.
The Wi-Fi provided at each kiosk will reach a 150-foot radius, and up to 250 devices can connect to each one without slowing down the speed. Because yeah, it'll be fast. According to the Times, the network will be 100 times faster than "average municipal Wi-Fi systems," and 20 times faster than "average home Internet service in the city." Officials cited this very important fact: You will be able to download a two-hour movie in 30 seconds.
The chosen vendor, CityBridge, is made up of media company Titan (which already is a pay phone franchisee), Control Group, a design firm, wireless provider and tech advisor Qualcomm, and hardware manufacturer Comark.
· LinkNYC [official]
· Pay Phones in New York City Will Become Free Wi-Fi Hot Spots [NYT]
· De Blasio Administration Announces Winner of Competition to Replace Payphones with Five-Borough Wi-Fi Network [nyc.gov]
· 5 Fantastical Designs for the Phone Booth of the Future [Curbed]
· All Pay Phones coverage [Curbed]