Harrison Enright
December 10, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


Fig. 1: Example of the Tablet and charging ports. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

LinkNYC is a new type of communications network. It is attempting to do something that has not been done before in our day and age: eliminate payphones in a major city and replace them all with kiosks. Only, these kiosks are no ordinary kiosks. They are in fact Wi-Fi hotspots, charging stations, virtual maps, and phones in themselves.

How Do They Work?

These kiosks are simple in their design and appearance. The "Links", as they will be called, are just a small wall, painted black and gray, and feature two digital screen displays on either side of the wall, as seen in Figures 1 and 2. This is much more aesthetically pleasing to look at than the standard payphone, which is why these Links will replace around 7,500 payphones throughout the city. The Links contain multiple features including free Wi-Fi, USB ports to charge your electronic devices, a tablet in which maps and directions can be accessed, and a keypad and microphone to make phone calls with using the Vonage app built into the tablet, with the option to plug in headphones to make the call more private. Now you may ask how all these features can be offered completely free of charge to the user, and the answer is through advertisements. The two electronic displays on either side of the Link will display advertisements to the public, in same fashion that a bus stop displays advertisements. So it is in fact the advertisement companies that will pay for the Wi-Fi and charging features that will be given to the public for free.


Fig. 2: Example of the Link. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

There are many pros surrounding this potential citywide service. One of the major ones is that it is the only place in North America that a consumer can receive gigabit-speed Internet access, and at no charge to the user. [1] This would allow for people to surf the web without having to worry about using up all their data or being charged by their phone company for too much data usage. Another pro for implementing this on a citywide scale would be that it allows people to charge their phones, or to use a phone when their phone dies to call someone. This would be especially helpful for tourists, who may not know their way around the city and would thus be "stranded" if they were to lose their form of communication with someone through their phone. Additionally, the Links just look a lot better than an old, bland payphone. Finally, the LinkNYC network would create a huge amount of revenue and opportunity for the city of New York. Its projected to create more than $500 million of revenue for the city. [2]


One of the major cons of the Links being implemented in the city is that it may attract the wrong crowd. It might be intended for people to make quick stops at as they send an email, charge their phone, or check the maps. What they are not intended for is attracting homeless people and other users not making use of the kiosks for their intended purposes. These "homeless people [are] using the tablets to watch porn." [3] But the homeless and loiterers are not the only problem surrounding the Links. At least 40 have already been installed in the Upper East Side, and residents have complained about the size and noise of them being too distracting, and that they are even becoming sites for drug deals. [1] This is obviously not what the Links are made to become.


While the Links prove to be extremely beneficial to the society and economy of New York City, they have had issues and backlash on some of the "betas" that have already been installed throughout the city. Already, the internet in the tablets has been taken out of the kiosks due to the amount of porn usage. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for New York and free Wi-Fi.

© Harrison Enright. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] P. McGeehan, "Free Wi-Fi Kiosks Were to Aid New Yorkers. An Unsavory Side Has Spurred a Retreat," New York Times, 14 Sep 16.

[2] "Hot Spots, Big City," New York Times, 9 Dec 14.

[3] B. Fung, "The Real Issue with New York's Free Internet Kiosks Isn't Porn," Washington Post, 15 Sep 16.