Payphones will truly become a thing of the past in New York City. Starting in 2015, the LinkNYC program will begin replacing the payphones with public Internet consoles. The consoles are designed to provide a range of benefits to city-dwellers, including gigabit Wi-Fi, free domestic calls, battery charging, a tablet for directions or city services, and street lighting. The technical details are not definite yet, like who will provide the Wi-Fi and connection services, but the broad picture seems promising.
The funding for the program will be created through advertisements on the consoles, taking the financial burden of the large scale payphone upgrades completely off the shoulders of the people. Initial estimates claim that as much as $500 million could be generated over the first 12 years of operation once the system is rolled out. The Internet “pylons” would number at about 10,000 and would be placed across all five boroughs.
The benefits are manifold. The city would take another step forward in its world-leading modernity, swapping obsolete and space-consuming technology for a desirable alternative. Internet access would be made even more widely available, residents would have a convenient place to charge their phones in case of dead batteries, and tourists (of which there are many in NYC) could have an easy guide around town. Beyond that, advertisers could get a useful channel for their products into one of the most valuable markets in the world.
If LinkNYC is successful, it could mark a significant step forward in the public use of technology. Cities across the country may be inspired to follow suit and the already-numbered days of the payphone may quickly disappear. There is already talk of the Internet as a new type of utility, but this type of program may accelerate the public’s demand for universal access to Internet.