Today, workers began installing the first LinkNYC access points in New York. First announced in November 2014, the hubs are designed as an update to the standard phone booth, using upgraded infrastructure to provide gigabit Wi-Fi access points. The signal range will be roughly 150 feet, visible LinkNYC anticipates another weeks or two of testing before New Yorkers will be able to use the hubs to get online.
This particular installation was spotted outside a small Starbucks at 13th St and 5th Avenue, near Manhattan’s Union Square. Hundreds of other hubs will be installed throughout the city in the days to come.
The full network will install more than 7,500 public hubs throughout the city, each replacing a pre-existing phone booth. Once completed, the hubs will also include USB device charging ports, touchscreen web browsing, and two 55-inch advertising displays. The city estimates that ads served by the new hubs will generate more than $500 million in revenue over the next 12 years.
The LinkNYC project is not without controversy and the Daily News reported that outer-borough hubs in Brooklyn and the Bronx were exhibiting speeds as much as ten times slower than equivalent hubs in Manhattan.
One of the companies involved in the hubs, Titan, also drew controversy for implanting Bluetooth beacons in the test hubs, which could potentially have been used to track pedestrians and serve ads. The beacons were removed shortly after their existence was made public.
There are also some hardware components missing from the hubs installed today, particularly the built-in touchscreen-enabled tablet, designed for web browsing, maps, and free phone calls.