New York City will see the official launch of its new citywide LinkNYC free Wi-Fi system today. At noon on Thursday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is announcing the public launch of the Wi-Fi hotspots that have replaced old payphones at the northwest corner of 16th Street and 3rd Avenue. Mayor de Blasio will be joined by members from CityBridge, the consortium of companies behind the LinkNYC system.
Though the LinkNYC system had a soft launch in January, with the Wi-Fi at four LinkNYC hubs turned on on Manhattan’s Third Avenue, today’s official rollout includes more hub locations and support for LinkNYC’s tablet capabilities.
Each LinkNYC hub is a 10-foot-tall structure made of aluminum, which connects to a newly laid fiber Internet network in the city. The hubs act as wireless routers that New Yorkers and visitors can connect to for free with their devices to get ultrafast Internet. But each LinkNYC hub also includes a built-in Android tablet, which allows passersby without their own device to browse the web, access city services, contact 311, view maps and directions, and even make free Vonage phone calls to anywhere in the U.S. With the official public launch of the LinkNYC system today, existing LinkNYC hub tablet capabilities will go live for the first time.
Each LinkNYC hub also features two USB charging ports, so visitors can top up the power on their own devices. The USB ports are designed to be one-way, charging only ports, to prevent them being hacked to pull data from a user’s device. The LinkNYC hubs will also feature a dedicated 911 button that can be pressed in the event of an emergency.
The hubs also include two 55-inch HD displays on either side that show advertising to passersby, which is how the free Wi-Fi is funded.
When the Wi-Fi capabilities of the first four LinkNYC hubs were switched on in January, their connection speeds lived up to the hype, with many users reporting between 150 Mbps and 300 Mbps download speeds and well over 100 Mbps upload speeds.
By July of this year, the city will have rolled out 510 LinkNYC hubs across the five boroughs, and within the next eight years, over 7,500 hubs will be set up across the city. To find the nearest active LinkNYC hub near you you can check out the Find a Link web app.