LinkNYC, New York City's new free public WiFi system has gone live, promising gigabit WiFi, free phone calls and a tablet to reach out to information services such as maps—all packed into a high-tech replacement for old phone booths.
Today's turn-on, attended by the mayor, was for 15 stations; by July there will be 510, spread over the NYC's 5 boroughs. Over the next four years another 4000+ will be added, and eventually the total will hit 7500.
To use the system, you have to enter an e-mail address, but only the first time. After that, you'll be connected anytime you're within 150 feet of one of the stations. At the booth itself, there's a Vonage-powered phone offering free calls to anywhere in the U.S., as well as the tablet for internet access to apps, maps and city services.
The system is supposed to pay for itself through advertising on the kiosks; under the contract, the city is guaranteed 50% or $500 million of the ad money and the companies are responsible for maintenance costs. When the system was first proposed a year or so ago, that revenue split led to a plan to wire Manhattan first and have the rest of the city wait, but a popular revolt led the City Council to require that everyone be included, and at full speed.