DIGITAL DIVIDES
The week of June 26, 2016
tdd-linkNYC

Reimagining the future of payphones in New York

By New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio

In 2016, broadband access is not a luxury—it’s a necessity. We live in a world where students of all ages need the internet to do their homework, where adults need it to look for jobs—and we also live in a world where not everyone has access to this essential tool.

LinkNYC is just one part of our efforts to ensure more New Yorkers have internet access and all the opportunities that come along with it. It’s an innovative way of turning our outdated payphones into an incredibly useful resource for New Yorkers. Last week, we fully activated the first Link–a state-of-the-art kiosk delivering ultra-fast Wi-Fi at a radius of over 150 feet and speeds of up to one gigabit per second. Our new Links also provide phone calls to anywhere in the United States, a tablet for web browsing, and two USB charging ports—all of which is completely free to use. By July, we’ll have over 500 Links in all five boroughs—and within eight years, there will be at least 7,500 Links citywide.

Everybody benefits from upgrading our old payphones to something far newer, infinitely more useful, and 100 percent free.

As this program expands to all five boroughs, LinkNYC will bring some relief and peace of mind to New Yorkers who rely on smartphones or pay-as-you-go data plans as their primary way of getting online. We know that 44 percent of Americans earning $30,000 or less have had to suspend or cancel service to make ends meet. LinkNYC is a game changer for New Yorkers who struggle to pay for internet access, for students who need to download their homework or access online resources on their way home from school, for job seekers browsing applications on the web, or even for parents who need to reach their kids in a pinch when their phone battery dies unexpectedly.

And, not only do New Yorkers not have to pay a quarter to use these tools, the LinkNYC program won’t cost taxpayers a dime. A historic agreement with CityBridge—the consortium of tech companies responsible for installing and maintaining the Links—guarantees that New York City will receive at least half a billion dollars in revenue collected through the LinkNYC program, which is entirely paid for by advertising. This is a no-brainer for the city and our residents. Everybody benefits from upgrading our old payphones to something far newer, infinitely more useful, and 100 percent free.

Projects like LinkNYC are an important part of our efforts to make the digital divide a thing of the past.

One in four New York City residents doesn’t have broadband access at home; that number rises to more than one-third for the lowest-income New Yorkers—which means they are missing out on a worldwide web of information and opportunity. But this problem isn’t an intractable one. That’s why our administration has committed to ensuring every New Yorker has access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband by 2025. We’re working to reach this goal in various ways, such as bringing broadband to seven public housing developments—reaching 21,000 residents—and making significant investments in broadband infrastructure over the next decade.

Innovative projects like LinkNYC are an important part of our efforts to make the digital divide a thing of the past—just like our payphones.

Bill de Blasio is the 109th mayor of New York City.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Daily Dot on Feb. 25, 2016.

Illustration by Bruno Moraes