New York City Is Converting Its Outdated Pay Phones into Free Wi-Fi Hotspots

Out with the old, in with the new.

New York City has officially put its ambitious LinkNYC plan into action, embarking on an eight-year project to convert the city's rusty, old pay phones into shiny, new free Wi-Fi hotspots. Approximately 7,500 outdated telecom stations (and Colin Farrell plot devices) will be replaced under LinkNYC's provisions. The new hotspot system is funded through digital advertising and will provide free Internet access to legions of locals and tourists alike.

The first unit of the LinkNYC pilot program was rolled out for testing last week at Fifth Street and Third Avenue.

The biggest reason these pay phones are being retrofitted into Wi-Fi hotspots? Tech disruption. The mobile phone completely disrupted the phone booth and landlines, seemingly making them obsolete overnight. In what other realms should we expect the next phase of tech disruption? Singularity University's Vivek Wadhwa has the answer:

Each hotspot will provide free Internet access within a 150-foot radius to a speedy 1 Gbps network. Other infrastructural features include the addition of device-charging stations and the ability to make personal calls free of charge. The structures will be easily visible — each will tower over the crowds at nine feet tall, resembling a digital sci-fi obelisk of sorts. The terminals will also be fully ADA-compliant and include an emergency button to contact 911.

LinkNYC will no doubt serve as a test for the rollout of similar systems across the country. The Wi-Fi hotspots are dripping in civic appeal, and contracting with private enterprise allows the city to minimize risk and monetary investment. The project is not without its critics, who bring legitimate concerns about security and encryption, as well as the hazy details of New York's deal with Qualcomm and other telecom companies attached to the project.

Still, the outlook for LinkNYC is exciting. We'll have to check in on the project moving forward, but the system's potential success could spur a wave of similar infrastructural investments in the future. Time will tell.



Robert Montenegro is a writer and dramaturg who regularly contributes to Big Think and Crooked Scoreboard. He lives in Washington DC and is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Twitter: @Monteneggroll. Website:

Archaeologists unearth dozens of mummified cats in Egypt

Dozens of mummified cats were dug up this week. This isn't as shocking as you might think.

Culture & Religion
  • Archaeologists in Egypt have found dozens of mummified cats in the tomb of a royal offical.
  • The cats will join the ranks of hundreds of thousands of previously discovered ancient kitties.
  • While the cats are nothing special, the tomb also held well preserved beetles.
Keep reading Show less

Men obsessed with building muscle mass have higher mental health risks

They're at a higher risk for depression, weekend binge drinking, and unnecessary dieting.

Palestinian participants flex their muscles during a bodybuilding competition in Gaza city on October 28, 2016. / AFP / MOHAMMED ABED (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
Mind & Brain
  • Body dysmorphia is not limited to women, a new study from Norway and Cambridge shows.
  • Young men that focus on building muscle are at risk for a host of mental and physical health problems.
  • Selfie culture is not helping the growing number of teens that are anxious and depressed.
Keep reading Show less

A.I. turns 57 million crop fields into stunning abstract art

Detailed (and beautiful) information on 57 million crop fields across the U.S. and Europe are now available online.

Image: OneSoil
Strange Maps
  • Using satellite images and artificial intelligence, OneSoil wants to make 'precision farming' available to the world.
  • The start-up from Belarus has already processed the U.S. and Europe, and aims for global coverage by 2020.
  • The map is practical, and more — browse 'Random Beautiful Fields' at the touch of a button.
Keep reading Show less