This week, a New York City committee approved long-awaited plans to replace the city’s antiquated, unused sidewalk payphones with free Wi-Fi hot spots. The high-speed aluminum charging stations will offer free Wi-Fi as well as free nationwide phone calls from cell phones. Construction will begin some time in 2015, with plans to install approximately 500 kiosks throughout the city in the program’s first year.
The game-changing move, which Mayor Bill de Blasio has referenced as “historic,” aims to significantly benefit NYC neighborhoods, generating over 100 full-time jobs and around 650 support jobs to install and maintain the Wi-Fi hot spots. Mayor de Blasio has been a strong advocate of the plans since their proposal.
“With the approval of our LinkNYC proposal to expand free, high-speed internet access to New Yorkers across the five boroughs, we will not only transform outdated payphone infrastructure into cutting-edge Wi-Fi hotspots, but dramatically increase fast broadband reach in more neighborhoods citywide,” de Blasio said in a statement on Wednesday.
The public-private contract with City Bridge is called LinkNYC and has guaranteed the city $500 million in revenue over the next 12 years, purely supplied by advertisers at no cost to taxpayers. When the plans were first proposed, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer voiced his concerns about the role of advertisers influencing the locations of the kiosks, as plans for super-fast 1-gigabit hotspots were suspiciously limited to wealthy Manhattan neighborhoods. After approval of the plans this week, however, those concerns were addressed and the technology will now be available in a balanced dispersement in commercial neighborhoods across the boroughs. Stringer’s office has pledged to monitor the roll out of the hubs and ensure their equity.