NYC is now home to the largest, fastest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world. Mayor de Blasio flipped on the city’s first LinkNYC Wi-Fi hotspots today in Manhattan. Called “Links”, the kiosks replace NYC’s obsolete payphones, and provide the public with free domestic phone calls, free web browsing, access to 311 and Google Maps, and free USB charging. The project was made possible by a consortium of companies called CityBridge, made up of tech, advertising and user experience experts like Intersection, Qualcomm, and CIVIQ Smartscapes.

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“LinkNYC is the Wi-Fi network New Yorkers deserve: the largest, fastest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world – and you won’t need to insert a quarter in the slot, because it’s completely free,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “LinkNYC brings us a couple steps closer to our goal of leveling the playing field and providing every New Yorker with access to the most important tool of the 21st century.”

Related: NYC begins converting 7,500 old pay phone booths into Wi-Fi hotspots

Each Link will provide New Yorkers with secure and private Wi-Fi within a 150-foot radius, free calls within the US, two ports for USB charging, a tablet for accessing the internet, and a 911 button that can be used to contact emergency services.

The city plans to install a minimum of 510 Links across the five boroughs by July 2016, with plans for at least 7,500 kiosks to be rolled out over the next eight years.

+ LinkNYC

Photos: Yuka Yoneda for Inhabitat NYC