New York will turn a $500 million profit by providing free Wi-Fi throughout the city with an advertiser-funded partnership. LinkNYC is replacing the city’s obsolete pay phones with 7,500 Wi-Fi kiosks, which will provide free high-speed internet to the 25% of New Yorkers who currently do not have access to broadband. The partnership is a model for cities who want to modernise their infrastructure without burdening taxpayers.
Results & Impact
LinkNYC is replacing pay phones with at least 7,500 kiosks that offer free high-speed Wi-Fi, device charging, phone calls, a 911 button for emergency services and a tablet interface that gives users access to maps and directions
New York City, CityBridge
LinkNYC is funded entirely by advertisers like Samsung, Delta, The Gap and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Link stations help provide city services – like voter registration and polling information – and generate data to help New York run more efficiently
Low-income people, city dwellers
Cost & Value
The city will profit $500 million over 12 years
Running since 2016
LinkNYC had to restrict tablet use after the project's launch because people were monopolising the tablets to listen to music and watch movies. Now the tablets can only be used for maps and direction information
LinkNYC plans to expand to London and other parts of the UK next
New York is providing free internet to all five boroughs and expects to turn a $500 million profit by partnering with CityBridge to turn pay phones into WiFi hotspots.
Twenty-five percent of New Yorkers currently do not have access to high-speed broadband at home. The partnership will give low-income residents access to the internet, and allow residents to reduce spending on data plans.
“LinkNYC is a model for other cities,” said Jen Hensley, General Manager of LinkNYC. “Cities around the world are looking for ways to modernise their infrastructure to bring connectivity and digital services to their residents without burdening taxpayers.”
In 2013, Mayor Bill De Blasio’s administration held a competition for ideas to replace New York’s now-obsolete pay phones. CityBridge – a consortium of companies that includes Intersection, Qualcomm and CIVIQ Smartscapes – won the contract with their proposal for LinkNYC. CityBridge is led by Sidewalk Labs, a Google-backed startup focused on bringing technology to urban areas.
LinkNYC is replacing pay phones with at least 7,500 kiosks offering free high-speed Wi-Fi, device charging, phone calls, a 911 button for emergency services and a tablet interface that gives users access to maps and directions. The first kiosks, called Links, launched in February 2016.
Cities across Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and the Middle East have adopted similar free public Wi-Fi programs, but LinkNYC’s interactive tablet is a unique offering.
“This first-of-its kind project is already bringing essential services and is completely free of charge to hundreds of thousands of visitors and residents alike. Our progress has been incredible so far, with over 500 active kiosks across the city, and we will continue to build on our outstanding network in the coming years,” said Anne Roest, Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.
The LinkNYC programme is funded entirely by advertising dollars. LinkNYC advertisers include Samsung, Delta, The Gap and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A major draw for companies is location-based advertising, through which users can see ads for products or services available nearby. Advertisers can vary ads by audience, period of time or time of day, and even send out weather- or event-triggered messaging. The city of New York receives half of all revenue generated, which is expected to be $500 million by the end of LinkNYC’s 12-year contract.
Links help deliver city services – such as providing links to voter registration and polling information – and generate data to help New York run more efficiently. The project is expected to create 100 to 150 new full time jobs in manufacturing, technology and advertising.
When the project began, it offered unrestricted internet access on Link tablets. Problems arose when users began monopolising the tablets to watch movies or listen to music, even going so far as to bring chairs and couches to sit on. A related and much-publicised problem was that some New Yorkers even started watching pornography on the tablets. Mayor de Blasio eventually accepted that providing unlimited internet access on public tablets was bound to lead to bad behaviour, and the Link tablets were restricted to providing maps and direction information.
Technology market intelligence company ABI Research projects that total Wi-Fi hotspot deployments around the world will grow from 7.8 million in 2015 to 13.3 million in 2020. ABI predicts that more cities will integrate public Wi-Fi and charging stations into the urban landscape through public furniture and fixtures like benches, shelters, streetlight poles and trash cans.
More than 900,000 people have signed up to use LinkNYC Wi-Fi since February 2016. LinkNYC plans to expand to London and other parts of the UK next.
(Photo credit: LinkNYC)