New York City unveiled an ambitious plan to roll out a free city-wide municipal Wi-Fi network that officials say will be the fastest and most wide-reaching network of its kind in the world.
At a press conference at City Hall, the city unveiled LinkNYC, which will rely on thousands of kiosks that will be deployed at locations currently occupied by pay phones. The kiosks will be installed in as many as 10,000 locations throughout the five boroughs and will offer Wi-Fi service of one gigabit per second within a radius of 150 feet. They’ll also offer free domestic voice calls to all 50 states. The first of the kiosks is expected to begin service in late 2015.
The winning concept came from a consortium of several companies known as CityBridge, which includes the wireless chip company Qualcomm and Titan, the company that runs the largest network of pay phones in the city.
Others include Control Group, a design firm, and Comark, a company that specializes in building ruggedized electronics. Working with the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, their plan calls for the network of kiosks to be supported by as much as $500 million in advertising revenue over a dozen years and cost taxpayers nothing.
Cable modem and fiber broadband service are readily available throughout much of the city. Officially, some 96 percent of the population have had access to broadband service (if they’re willing and able to pay for it) since 2009.
But Maya Wiley, counsel to the Mayor, said as many as one in five New Yorkers rely on mobile phones for Internet access, often via prepaid services that have finite access to data. “That access has a cost when you’re doing things like tracking your kids’ grades or accessing city services,” she said.