The streets of New York City are one step closer to super-fast public Wi-Fi. LinkNYC, a public-private partnership between the city and a consortium of technology companies, has debuted its first two payphone-turned-tech kiosks in Manhattan. These gleaming aluminum "Links," as they are called, contain Wi-Fi beacons, mobile device chargers and informational tablets that include an app allowing free phone calls to anywhere in the country. The city plans to roll out 500 more of them by July and to have at least 4,550 spread across the five boroughs by 2020.
The Links are an early example of efforts by cities across the country to retool their public rights of way to provide better services and even generate revenue. In the case of LinkNYC, that revenue comes from advertisements that light up 55-inch HD screens on each side of the kiosks, changing every 15 seconds. The ad revenue will be split between the city and CityBridge, the designer and operator of the Links. The city is guaranteed at least $500 million over the next 12 years.