NYC replaces payphones with city-wide free Wi-Fi, calls

New York City's payphones will soon be a thing of the past as they are replaced with high-tech video chat and free Wi-Fi booths.

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Credit: CityLink

New York City is hanging up its payphones for good, in favor of a high-tech alternative pushed forward by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Announced Monday by the Mayor's office, the winner of a competition to replace ageing payphones with something more modern is CityBridge, a designer of a device network which will give all five NYC boroughs free wireless Internet.

The LinkNYC booths will give New Yorkers 24/7 free Internet with up to gigabit speeds, free phone calls to anywhere in the United States, a touchscreen tablet interface to access city services, wayfinding, 911 and 311 calls and free call phone charging. The booths -- also known as "Links" within the device network -- will also display adverts and public service announcements digitally.

Each booth, encased in aluminium, will be nearly 10-foot-high and support a Wi-Fi radius of 150 feet. Up to 10,000 links across the boroughs have been pledged by the NYC Mayor, and they will be checked twice a week for graffiti.

De Blasio says the construction of the booths will be at "no-cost to taxpayers and generate more than $500 million in revenue for the city over the next 12 years," as well creating a number of new jobs. Instead, advertising will support the project, of which a revenue portion will be shared with the city.

"This administration has been committed to expanding affordable access to broadband for all New Yorkers from the outset. It's essential for everything we need to do to be a fair and just city, because we can't continue to have a digital divide that holds back so many of our citizens," said the Mayor.

"With this proposal for the fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world -- accessible to and free for all New Yorkers and visitors alike -- we’re taking a critical step toward a more equal, open and connected city -- for every New Yorker, in every borough."

The Link booths were envisioned by the Antenna Design team, Masamichi Udagawa and Sigi Moeslinger. CityBride has promised to establish a local facility for producing and repairing the booths, and this is expected to create 100 to 150 new full-time jobs in manufacturing, technology and advertising, as well as an estimated 650 support jobs.

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