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Finally, something besides empty cigarette boxes and mystery fluids will occupy New York's long-unused pay phone booths: Over the course of next several years starting this month, the city will be turning them into thousands of LinkNYC wi-fi kiosks, featuring free high-speed wireless internet as well as USB charging slots, free domestic phone calls, and "a dedicated 911 call button," per AM NY.
And it won't just be any wi-fi: it'll super fast wi-fi, at least according to officials who spoke with the press yesterday. "This is going to be the fastest internet connection you’ve ever used," as the COO of one of Link's partner companies put it, extending a 150-foot radius from the kiosk for up to 500 users at once, reports Gothamist, and is theoretically supposed to work "up to 100 times" faster than most public wi-fi systems. (Meaning it should be fast enough to download movies and other large files in the blink of an eye.)
The first 10 to 15 kiosks are set to go up mid-January along Third and Eighth avenues between 14th and 58th streets, with 4,550 going up over the next four years. Eventually, there will be 7,500 links over the next 12 years, and in all five boroughs. Early neighborhoods slated for beta testing of the program include the South Bronx, Jamaica, St. George and Downtown Brooklyn. LinkNYC has a map (below) of future stations, which shows a heavy concentration of kiosks in Manhattan as well as the more heavily populated parts of the outer boroughs:
As Gothamist points out, if you lived close enough to one of these things, you could theoretically forego paying for private apartment high-speed and do all your daily Internet-ing on the city's dime. ("I don’t know why we’d stop you from doing that," as one official told the site.)
But cheapskate beware: Though the city will attempt to keep networks secure as possible, transmitting sensitive information (e.g. banking online, or buying things with your credit card) is kind of the biggest no-no out there when it comes to avoiding identity theft.
In any case, if you find yourself out and about and hankering to map out directions or download another podcast episode without eating into your monthly data allowance, or your phone just dies at a pivotal moment during your day, these kiosks will likely save New Yorkers a good amount of hassle and money. Yes, definitely an upgrade from our beloved old zombie pay phones.