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Free Wi-Fi Is Coming to New York City

LinkNYC station in New York. Photo by Jim Henderson

LinkNYC station in New York. Photo by Jim Henderson

The spread of mobile phones across America has led to a disappearance of public pay telephones. In fact, in New York City right now, workers are removing pay phones from the city’s streets.

But, pay phones are being replaced by something most people will find more useful: free Wi-Fi kiosks. The LinkNYC program is expected to install 7500 kiosks, or Links, throughout the city over the next few years. The system is in beta testing right now.

LinkNYC Kiosk

LinkNYC Kiosk

CityBridge is providing the kiosks. It is an alliance of three companies Qualcomm, Intersection and CIVIQ Smartscapes. Intersection is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

New York City will install and maintain them. It will pay for the program, and expects to profit from the Links, through advertising.

Each Link has two high-definition screens to display advertisements and public service announcements. The kiosks also provide high-speed Wi-Fi Internet access, tablets with Internet access, phone calling within the U.S., emergency phone calls, and USB charging ports. LinkNYC says Wi-Fi will cover an area of 45 meters around the kiosk.

Wi-Fi speeds are 100 times faster than home networks, according to LinkNYC. Users have been impressed with the speed:

In addition to speed, LinkNYC Wi-Fi offers security. Each kiosk offers two types of Wi-Fi networks, secured and unsecured. By registering with an email account, a user can get a key to connect to an encrypted Wi-Fi network.

According the LinkNYC, "Your email address will never be sold, or shared with third parties for their own use." The company's privacy policy contains more information about data privacy.

Each kiosk has a tablet that runs a secure version of Android to access the Internet, get maps, directions, and information about city services. A phone keypad lets users call U.S. phone numbers for free. Users can press and hold a red button on the kiosk to call emergency services.

Kiosks can also serve as charging stations, with two USB ports that transfer electricity but not data. People are able to connect headphones at the kiosks for privacy and to block city noise.

The kiosks have cameras. The cameras will help record traffic flow, pollution levels, crime and suspicious packages.

Using a LinkNYC Kiosk

If you visit New York City, you may see a LinkNYC kiosk or a pay phone being removed.

A video on YouTube shows how to connect to a LinkNYC kiosk.

If you would like to see LinkNYC come to your town, send an email invitation. The address is

The Issues with LinkNYC

The Links program is not without critics. Some neighbors of the kiosks have reported increased noise, with users streaming music, videos and television shows.

Some people are also reporting concern about privacy issues. They worry about the use of cameras on the Links. Still others have questioned the privacy of the personal data that will be collected by the kiosks.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Carolyn Mohr wrote this report for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Do you like the idea of Link kiosks? Which of the free services would you use? Do you wish Link kiosks would come to your city? Are you concerned about privacy issues?

Share your thoughts in the Comments Section below or on our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

kiosk - n. a small structure that provides information and services on a computer screen

beta test - n. a trial of machinery, software, or other products, in the final stages of its development

advertise - v. to make the public aware of something (such as a product) that is being sold

high-definition - adj. having a very clear picture and a wide screen

charging port - n. an opening that connects a phone to a power source to recharge the battery

encrypt - v. to change (information) from one form to another especially to hide its meaning

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