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New York finally starts to convert payphone kiosks into gigabit Wi-Fi hubs

The plan was unveiled so long ago we’d almost forgotten about it, but New York City is finally making good on its promise to transform thousands of public payphone kiosks across its five boroughs into high-speed Wi-Fi hotspots.

Workers have been spotted installing one of the “Link” hubs at a site near Manhattan’s Union Square. The high-tech connection points are expected to go live following a test phase lasting a couple of weeks.

Five hundred kiosk upgrades are set to be in place by July, The Verge reported, while the completed project will eventually see around 7,500 converted kiosks offering free Wi-Fi  and other services to New Yorkers and visitors alike.

linkNYC

The hubs are designed to offer users free 24/7 gigabit Wi-Fi within a 150-foot radius, a touchscreen tablet interface offering information on city services and attractions, free calls to anywhere within the U.S., and charging functionality for mobile devices. They’ll also incorporate two 55-inch displays showing public service announcements and ads, which the City says will help pay for the hubs’ installation and maintenance.

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The plan to bring extra functionality to the city’s network of aging payphone kiosks is the work of LinkNYC – a group that includes tech, telecom, and ad firms – and the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation.

The idea was first suggested by former Mayor Bloomberg a few years back, while Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio, has been keen to take the plan forward, albeit at a somewhat measured pace.