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363. Free Wi-Fi, Link NYC

Improvement of Urban Life

So, Yi-hyeon 기자2016.08.29 12:53:54

           When you walk on the street, not having mobile data could cause great discomfort when you need instant internet access. If you do not have time and money to go inside anywhere that provides Wi-Fi, what will you do? In New York, this is no problem. You can find everything you want on the road there.

 

About Link NYC

“Link NYC” is a multifunctional and convenient facility converted from a public telephone booth located in ’New York City’. People who enter can see a phrase on the screen, “Connect to free super-fast Wi-Fi here.” As you can expect from this sentence, its main function is to provide public Wi-Fi. According to New York broadcasting, the internet speed is up to 1 Giga bps within about a 50m radius, so that anyone near the booth can use this surprisingly fast Internet service of public Wi-Fi. Using this facility, citizens can search maps, file civil complaints, call 911 and make a free phone call in the United States, just by inputting their simple personal information.

This project started with a contract for the consortium “City Bridge” in 2014. This involved many kinds of professional companies, ranging from technology to advertising. The plan was to convert each public telephone booth into a multifunctional kiosk, which would become an unmanned functional device. The cost was covered by advertising sales, using 55-inch digital screens on both sides of the kiosk. The profit from this venture is expected to be roughly half a billion dollars over twelve years. This is about 2.5 times greater than the installation cost of 200 million dollars, though extra operating costs or taxes are not taken into account. For this system, the installation of the kiosk is the important point. Therefore, "City Bridge" aimed to install 7,500 of them over ten years, by using the infrastructures of 7,000 public telephone booths in New York City, which have become almost useless.

One interesting fact is that the practical leader of this project is Google, which is famous not only for its worldwide search engine, but also for setting up potential projects influential to the world. Moreover, Google is already popular for starting innovative communication services such as the budget phone service: “Project Fi” in 2015 and free a phone call application: “Hangout”. Its newly established company, “Sidewalk Labs,” aims to improve the urban environment and invested in the newly merged company, “Intersection,” which supports “Link NYC”.

Worries

Because the project is at an early stage, not many people know about it. The kiosk just looks like an advertising board on the outside, and the touchscreen is hard to notice because of its small size. Therefore, it has not been fully utilized by citizens yet. Moreover, there are some concerns about it. The personal information required to use the Wi-Fi functions of the kiosk is at risk of being disclosed and illegally used. These problems cannot be dealt with in the immediate short term. After all, the project needs the continued interest and support of New York State and New Yorkers.  

How about Korea?

Similarly, public telephone booths are rarely used in Korea, and their number is continually decreasing. The deficit for KT, which is operates them, was about 50 billion won for one year in 2015. However, KT cannot remove them all because of the Telecommunications Business Act. Therefore, KT is struggling to find solutions. For example, KT Linkers have installed ATMs in some public telephone booths and converted others to recharging stations for electric cars. Other booths have been provided with emergency call buttons or heart defibrillators and even remodeled into unmanned libraries.

 

“Stagnant water is bound to corrupt,” as the saying goes. The continuous effort to grasp the needs of the people should be modified according to the changes of time. Therefore, it is important to convert old and useless facilities to useful ones. We must expect to see similar renovations somewhere near us soon.

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