When’s the last time you used a public payphone? Yeah, I don’t remember either. If you’re anything like me you’ve also marveled at the site of payphone and thought (wow, who uses those anymore?!). Honestly, other than criminals and, well, criminals, who else uses payphones anymore? The city of New York also feels they’ve become obsolete and for several years have been bouncing around ideas for how to reclaim these thousands of spots throughout the city. They’ve finally announced their intentions and I for one think it’s a novel and exciting idea!
The city of New York has announced that they intended to replace all of the aging phone booths with what they’re calling “Links” towers. Each tower will be equipped with Wi-Fi and an Android tablet loaded with some city service applications including internet calling. The best part is the service will be totally free! This is possible because the towers will double up as digital billboards; the city projects 500 million in revenue during the next 12 years. This should cover the 200 million dollar construction cost for the network along with any maintenance costs incurred. CityBridge, the company behind the project says that designs are final but users can expect to several variations on the tower throughout the city. They say the tower’s esthetic will reflect its surroundings and one can already imagine the difference between a demure Links tower in a residential area and what is sure to be a gaudy, lavish, and totally opulent Links Tower in the middle of Times Square.
It’s a great step forward as there are less than 100 US cities that offer free internet. Once the network is operational New York will surpass San Francisco as the largest US cities to provide free municipal WiFi. CityBridge says they expect to gradually start rolling out the new towers in 2015.