Over the last couple of years, tech consortium CityBridge has been working on LinkNYC, an effort to transform New York City’s disused payphones into state-of-the-art internet kiosks. Now, Intersection, BT and Primesight have announced a similar program for the United Kingdom.
LinkUK will replace existing payphones across London, starting with 100 kiosks that will be installed in Camden starting in early 2017, according to a report from The Next Web.
Like LinkNYC, LinkUK will start in the country’s biggest metro area, before potentially moving farther afield if the program is a success. BT expects to install an additional 750 kiosks across London and the rest of the U.K. following the initial 100 units that are set to be deployed in Camden.
The kiosks will offer free access to gigabit Wi-Fi, calls to U.K. landlines and mobile phones, maps and local information, as well as two USB ports for charging devices. However, they won’t give users access to a web browser directly from the unit itself.
At launch, LinkNYC did offer access to a free web browser — but this functionality was quickly seized upon as an easy portal to online pornography. The browser was removed, and based on what’s been announced regarding the LinkUK kiosks, it seems that this learning experience has impacted the future direction of the project.
In this day and age, there really isn’t as much demand for payphones as there once was, so it makes a lot of sense for this kind of program to repurpose them into something more useful.
However, it’s clear that both LinkNYC and LinkUK are just trial programs. Tourists to both cities will undoubtedly appreciate the free Wi-Fi, but the larger impact of open internet access will be felt once the program expands to other parts of the U.S. and the U.K., rather than their comparably well-connected capitals.
Updated on 10-25-16 by Brad Jones to reflect that CityBridge is not the consortium that’s responsible for LinkUK.