The citywide network of Wi-Fi stations known as LinkNYC begins its $200 million rollout from Harlem to Hollis Tuesday with the unveiling of two “links,” or kiosks, on Third Avenue (downtown for some reason).
The 9.5-foot-tall kiosks—one on East 15th Street, the other on East 17th Street—won’t be functional but they will give the public its first view of the system that will be replacing every pay phone in the city over the next four years.
Part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans for narrowing the digital divide, the network will provide free high-speed Internet service for anyone within 150-feet—the minimum range of the signals—of a kiosk.
About 10 links going up Third Avenue will begin providing gigabit-speed Wi-Fi over the next few weeks, according to CityBridge, a consortium that won the city’s franchise contract in 2014. Advertising on the kiosks will support the gigabit-speed Internet service.
Gigabit speed is 20 to 50 times faster than the broadband found in many homes and 100 times faster than the average public Wi-Fi speed. A gigabit-speed connection would allow a movie to be downloaded in less than a minute, as opposed to more than an hour using a typical public connection.
“We think it is going to be the fastest Internet experience [many people] have ever had,” said Colin O’Donnell, chief technology officer of CityBridge member-company Intersection, at a press preview with city officials Monday afternoon.”We think there is a huge opportunity to drive change in the industry.”
Formed last year from the merger of outdoor advertising firm (and pay phone operator) Titan and tech firm Control Group, Intersection is leading the rollout as part of a public-private partnership.
In February, the trial phase will take another step forward as the kiosks’ tablet component goes live, allowing users to make phone calls—for free within the U.S.—or search the Web. By June more than 500 kiosks, reaching into all five boroughs, will be up and running.
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More than 4,500 links will be operating within four years.
“We’ve been doing a lot of things,” said Anne Roest, commissioner of the city Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, at the press event. “But none of the things we’ve done have the potential to impact the equity issue of broadband access like Link NYC does.”