LinkNYC will bring public WiFi to New York City
New York City is embarking on an ambitious collaboration to become the world’s leader in public WiFi.
Faced with an aging and obsolete network of public pay phones, the NYC Office of the Mayor sent out a request for proposals (RFP) asking companies to propose alternatives and develop plans for putting this aging but valuable infrastructure to use. The winning proposal, for “LinkNYC”, would turn this network of pay phones into the world’s largest and fastest network of public WiFi hotspots.
Five companies have joined together to bring LinkNYC to life:
- Control Group – technology and design company creating integrated experiences
- Titan – leader in public advertising on municipal property
- Comark – builds rugged and weather-resistant computer hardware
- Qualcomm – designs wireless telecommunications products
- Antenna – a design firm which created the physical design for the Link towers
The first four companies have joined together to form a consortium called CityBridge, the entity which won the city’s contract and which will lead the project. Antenna was brought in for their design services, but is not part of the consortium.
LinkNYC will be funded entirely by advertising revenue. The project is expected to bring in $500 million over the next 12 years. In a press release, the NYC Office of the Mayor described the features of the WiFi towers, known as “Links”:
Links would offer 24/7 free Internet access up to gigabit speeds, which is over 100 times faster than average public Wi-Fi, as well as a range of other services including free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., a touchscreen tablet interface to access City services, wayfinding, easy access to 911 and 311 calls, free cell phone charging and digital displays for advertising and public service announcements.
But that’s not the end of the story. Control Group and Titan, leading firms in their own right, have recently merged to form a company called Intersection, which seeks to combine Control Group’s expertise in technology and design with Titan’s experience partnering with cities and local governments. This new company is being acquired by a consortium of investors, led by the ambitious newcomer Sidewalk Labs.
Sidewalk Labs is another young company, a subsidiary of Google (soon to be Alphabet), dedicated to improving city life. Self described as an “urban innovation company”, it is led by former Deputy Mayor of NYC and former chief executive of Bloomberg, Dan Doctoroff. Intersection is their first acquisition; making LinkNYC is their first project.
In these developments we see both an unprecedented overhaul of city infrastructure, as well as the first foray of Google and others into the world of civic technology.
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