Contributed by Jeffrey Sebranek
So, what is the purpose of LinkNYC?
The city of New York is among the premier cities in the world, yet there are still millions of New York City residents who do not enjoy anytime-access to high-speed internet. LinkNYC1, plans to change that by establishing a new communications network that will eventually replace all of the city’s iconic, and increasingly anachronistic, payphones with new technology called Link. To provide a foundation for these new Links stations CityBridge is also doling out cash upfront to pay for a brand new system of high-speed fiber cable currently being laid under the city streets. Standing at around 9 ½ feet tall Links booths are meant to help fill this gap in internet access for visitors and city residents by providing gigabyte-speed internet all around the city within range of any Links. In addition to free high-speed Wi-Fi, LinkNYC offers a variety of other features including: city services, free VOIP phone calls, 911 emergency feature, USB charging ports, and two 55-inch HD displays.
LinkNYC will be provided to city residents by the city of NYC and CityBridge, a group of companies hailing from the fields of technology, connectivity and advertising. The CityBridge conglomerate is composed of companies including tech giant Qualcomm, urban infrastructure design company Civiq Smartscapes (formerly known as Vertigo Digital Displays), and the largest municipal media company in the country Intersection, owned by tech overlords Alphabet Inc., still known to most as Google.
With the nation as a whole and countless municipalities deep in public debt, citizens of all political leanings have become concerned about the rapidly mounting costs of any new government created boondoggle. CityBridge seeks to mitigate this concern by taking up for themselves, the cost of installation and ongoing service. Funding for LinkNYC is slated to be derived wholly from advertising, sponsorships and partnerships that will come at no cost to either users or New York taxpayers. In fact the project is projected to raise at least half a billion dollars over the next 12 years. With 500 Links anticipated to be up and running by end of July 2016, CityBridge plans to construct over 7500 of the new units over the next few years as they continue their plan to replace old existing payphones with this new modern system.
The Good with the Bad
Lee Tien, a lawyer for digital privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation sums up his concern: “If CityBridge is using a business model that is not charging, and they are spending a bunch of money putting these things in, they are going to be monetizing the data hard,2.