Speed Reads

Dial 'I' For Internet

New York City will turn all of its payphones into free, high-speed wifi hotspots

In most cities, payphones are a zombified anachronism of the urban landscape — a place where someone can duck in to get out of the sidewalk crowd, escape the weather, and...make a cellphone call. New York City, on the other hand, sees phone booths as the perfect place to start a communication revolution.

Under a new program called LinkNYC, the city has announced plans to remove 8,400 payphones and replace them with 10,000 kiosks providing free high-speed wifi, free domestic phone call service, and even charging stations:


Users within 150 feet of a kiosk will enjoy 1 gigabyte-per-second internet speeds — meaning a two-hour movie could be downloaded in about 30 seconds. The $200 million project — to be built and maintained by a consortium of tech companies dubbed CityBridge — will be paid for entirely with digital advertising sold on the kiosks themselves.

Increased public wifi coverage could become a major public benefit, with 20 percent of New Yorkers lacking high-speed internet at home. NYC's move would effectively turn wifi into a public utility — an idea that's received an awful lot of attention recently.