New York City officials have announced a plan to turn nearly 7,000 old payphones in the city into WiFi hotspots. The goal is to provide city-wide WiFi to the public for free.

The LinkNYC program will be paid for by advertising on the side of the booths.


The goal is to have the first of the new Links up and running in 2015 with the eventual goal of blanketing all 5 boroughs of New York City with free wireless access points. Each old phone booth will become a WiFi hotspot capable of broadcasting a signal up to 150 feet away.

The booths will also have charging stations which you can use to power up your phone or other devices that use a USB cable, as well as a built-in Android tablet that’ll let you get directions, access city services, and more. The system also has a tactile keypad and braille lettering for accessibility.

You’ll also be able to make phone calls from any of the Links… but you won’t need a quarter. Phone calls to any US number will be free.

LinkNYC says it’ll offer Gigabyte-speed WiFi, allowing users to download a 2-hour movie in as little as 30 seconds… although I suspect speeds will vary depending on how many people are using the network at once.

Worried about connecting to a public WiFi network? LinkNYC says it will offer the first municipal WiFi service in the United States to use encrypted network connections.


Support Liliputing

Liliputing's primary sources of revenue are advertising and affiliate links (if you click the "Shop" button at the top of the page and buy something on Amazon, for example, we'll get a small commission).

But there are several ways you can support the site directly even if you're using an ad blocker* and hate online shopping.

Contribute to our Patreon campaign


Contribute via PayPal

* If you are using an ad blocker like uBlock Origin and seeing a pop-up message at the bottom of the screen, we have a guide that may help you disable it.

Subscribe to Liliputing via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,536 other subscribers

21 replies on “NYC to launch free WiFi by converting old payphones into hotspots”

  1. Verizon was experimenting with this some number of years ago. They owned the booths and had the wiring already in place. All they had to do was bridge it to the Internet using DSL over the existing copper pair, and add a hotspot.

    They ultimately determined that it was not cost effective, abandoned the project, and sold off the rights to the booths.

    So now, the communist socialist America-hating liberals who run New York City are going to spend taxpayer dollars to force its implementation and eventual failure.

  2. Too many features.
    Scale it back, keep it monolithic and hard to hurt.
    Free phone calls? I can see lines at these things and folks camping out near them.
    That was Ill-conceived.

  3. ‘free’ that’s a good one..thats right up there with “free’ healthcare,

  4. This is a BAD idea that has failed everyone (except the government elites) in many other areas. What you have here is big government using taxpayer funds to subsidize infrastructure that will eventually be protected from competition by it’s unfair advantage over free enterprise and/or the outright abuse of law-making. In the end you get a monopoly that provides poor inefficient service that never improves due to lack of competition. The city should tender the leasing of these spaces to the free market and then act as overseer, ensuring what is delivered is what was contracted.

    TL;DR: No – Karl Marx does NOT have the answer!

    1. Seriously? Time and again, all over the country, municipalities that were being ignored by the big ISPs as unprofitable decided to take matters into their own hands and provide the municipal broadband that is increasingly necessary for local businesses to remain competitive, and for local people to remain connected, only to be slapped down by state legislation written and paid for by the big-ISP lobbyists and passed by state lawmakers they have in their pockets. That legislation typically constucts ridiculous barriers for muni-broadband designed to kill any efforts to fill in the gaps left by the ISPs.

      In the majority of the nation, broadband ISPs are already either a monopoly or duopoly where there is little interest in competing on price or services. The US has one of the highest price-to-bandwidth ratio in the western world. Here in Austin where I live, it was amazing how much more responsive AT&T and Time Warner became once Google announced their entry into the market, even though they had supposedly been competing with each other for years.

      Municipal broadband in NY will, at worst, be no worse than having Comcast as the monopoly supplier, which is what they will be if the merger with TWC goes through. At best, it will provide millions of New Yorkers with affordable broadband access, and local businesses will also benefit from the service.

      As for raising the specter of communism — don’t be ridiculous. Is the USA a communist nation because the vast majority of roads are owned and mantained by the government?

      1. Wrong, NYC is not a Municipality being ignored by anyone – it is too big and too potentially lucrative. If in the likes of NYC you aren’t getting the service you think you should be – then change your provider – there are plenty of competitors to choose from. Just don’t be dumb enough to sign a ball-and-chain service contract with a carrier you have not fully tested first.

        The problem I call out in my comment is that in NYC – which is what this post is about – LOSES this range of choice and competition once the Government comes in and sets up it’s own Monopoly with an unfair competitive advantage. That is just plain wrong – driven by a Big Government Rules mentality.

        Now, if you are a rural village or township that is under-served by large carriers, that’s a completely different story, and out of context for the subject this post is about.

  5. Well, I guess a lot of people will be opting for slightly less expensive cellular plans with just voice and text without the need for data if there actually ends up being a “blanket” of WiFi service.

    1. Good. Anything to add a little pricing pressure to what is becoming an increasingly cheap (and more profitable) service from the cell phone companies.

  6. You still didn’t notice that you wrote “convertine” in the headline?

  7. So the city of Tempe (Phoenix suburb) added wifi-b-g transceivers to most street lights in 2006. Residents don’t use the network and tourists don’t either from what I have heard. What ends up is some private company gets to buy/rent the network at a high discount once the city has used public funds to build (no use to the people that paid the taxes). Fiber infrastructure is what cities should be installing with public funds… that adds property value.

    1. That’s a good point, and something to be concerned about, but I wonder if it was just done too soon. In 2006, the devices most people were using with WiFi was their laptops, maybe even a desktop or gaming console, in their own their own home.

      Some people brought their laptops to places, but I don’t think the usage was as high then, or even anywhere near what it is today. Lots of people have tablets and smartphones, that I’m sure would make use of this network, especially if the range made it the buildings, where people live and work.

    2. NO..nothing like this should be done with public funds,,most people wont/cant use values,,gimme a break. you sound like a closet liberal

      1. And given you screen name, it’s a surprise you believe anyone will take your comments seriously.

      2. City governments building a fiber infrastructure once and leasing it to competing ISPs for providing services over it is an eminently sensible suggestion. It gets the cities wired up once and allows for several ISPs to compete for the residents’ business, allowing the marketplace to keep prices down. Many other nations have been very successful using this model.

        The alternative (which is what’s happened across the US) is that you end up with local monopolies that can charge what they want without fear of anyone else moving in on their turf.

  8. There are still pay phones in NYC? I had thought that was one of many unrealistic things in Person of Interest! 😉

    1. Not all work, or even still have the phone still attached, there are a lot fewer than there were in the heyday before cellphones took over, but the wiring is still there and that’s all they need to set up hot spot access points…

      The decline of booths had also been slowed because the city has been experimenting for other ways to make them useful for well over a decade… like using them for advertising spaces, etc. and thus didn’t fully rely on their usage to gather revenue from them…

      While some places they’re maintained as emergency backup and/or historical significance… and of course there are parts of the city that are simply never touched and thus you’ll find many so called antiques still around, like parts of the subway that have been sealed off for decades, provided it’s not in a area that would get vandalized, etc… in which case you may only find some loose wires inexplicably sticking out of the ground or the skeletal remains of a former phone booth ;-p

  9. I hope this project works. It would be nice if it spread to other cities.

Comments are closed.