Sound Too Good To Be True? NYC Finalizing Plans To Convert Old Payphones Into State-Of-The-Art Kiosks Offering Free WiFi

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Sound Too Good To Be True? NYC Finalizing Plans To Convert Old Payphones Into State-Of-The-Art Kiosks Offering Free WiFi

Earlier this year, you may have read about Google and other tech giants vying for the opportunity to run a massive wireless system spanning New York City’s five boroughs. Last week the New York City’s Mayor’s office revealed it had approved the $200 million “LinkNYC” project proposed by CityBridge, a consortium of companies including Titan and Qualcomm Incorporated.

According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the project, which will replace phone booths with kiosks offering 24/7 internet access at the speed of 1 gigabit per second, will make the city more open and connected for every New Yorker in every borough. It is estimated that the new WiFi project will bring in an estimated $500 million in revenue over the next 12 years and create 100-150 new full-time jobs.

The kiosks will have futuristic touch screens and feature free domestic calls for cell phone users, mobile charging stations, city directions and screens for advertisements and public service announcements. LinkNYC will be funded by advertising displays on the kiosks, with CityBridge and New York City sharing the proceeds.

Sound too good to be true? You may be right. The kiosks’ WiFi signals will extend approximately 150 feet, meaning that portions of the city will be left untouched. Because each kiosk has limited range, many residents will have to continue to use unencrypted, public wireless networks in coffee shops and libraries.

When the Mayor’s office says the networks will allow New York City to be “open and connected”, what exactly does it mean? Decisions are still being made regarding the type of technology that will be installed, and it is unknown whether the reformed pay phones will provide secure, over-the-air encryption to its users. No matter the scenario, WPA2-Enterprise with 802.1X authentication is the industry standard for wireless encryption. The first kiosks are expected in late 2015.