City kicks off in Bronx with massive new LinkNYC kiosks with 5G capability

New York City launched an expansion of its LinkNYC program in the Bronx on Sunday with massive new 32-foot-tall versions of signage kiosks dubbed Link5G, which will hit streets in all five boroughs over the next four years.

The city and its private contractor for the project plan to add some 2,000 of the tallest poles with a focus on underserved areas, Mayor Eric Adams and city officials said at a news conference. July 10.

“What phone service was to our grandparents, Wi-Fi is to this generation right now,” Adams said next to one of the first new high-rise towers on W. Burnside Avenue at Morris Heights. “Accessible broadband and phone service isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity. Just as we need electricity, heat and water, these same services play a vital role in being able to perform our function, as does Wi-Fi.”

The new structures are operated in a public-private partnership by the CityBridge consortium, and are a revamp of the old 10ft kiosks the company set up under former Mayor Bill de Blasio from 2015 with free Wi-Fi, USB charging ports, tablet, 911 button and calling capabilities.

Mayor Eric Adams speaks at the launch of the new Link5G kiosks in the Bronx on July 10.Photo by Kevin Duggan

The former were supposed to be funded by digital advertising displays on the side and the city originally hoped to build 10,000, but the displays failed to bring in the promised revenue, halting the program with some 1,800 units largely built. in Manhattan.

The new pillars have the large additional infrastructure allowing telecommunications companies to set up 5G networks, and the revised proposal aims to generate revenue by leasing the poles to companies like AT&T and Verizon, The City reported.

New Yorkers need a phone plan that includes broadband service to connect to the fastest signal, but Wi-Fi and other old features will remain free.

The city wants to have 4,000 total kiosks by 2026, with 90% of the 2,000 new ones going to outer boroughs and above 96th Street in Manhattan.

Last year, the city’s Public Design Commission largely rejected the oversized design and has so far only approved their permission in commercial and manufacturing districts, but a senior CityBridge representative said they would seek the PDC to reconsider.

“For the deployment of Link5G, we cannot just do it in commercial areas. We also need to get to residential areas because the digital divide in New York is greatest in residential areas,” said Robert Sokota, president of the company’s wireless division.

A local was skeptical of the new technology, saying there were more pressing needs in the working-class neighborhood like rent, childcare, inflation and longer park hours.

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think it matters,” said Apryl Ferguson, who lives right next to the new bandstand. “Many of us need the internet, but I believe there are so many things that are more pressing right now than that.”

The Bronxite was also concerned about surveillance and that the pillar would harvest private information from people who use it.

“It looks like it tracks our movements, it tracks our phone calls, it takes our contacts. I would never use it,” she said. “When I pass by here, I’ll turn off my phone.”

City chief technology officer Matthew Fraser said the kiosks had a camera, but it was not on all the time. He said the data collected by the clusters will be used in an “acceptable” way.

“We want to make sure the public feels safe using these devices, and that their information is only used in an acceptable way,” Fraser said.

“In terms of surveillance technology, there is nothing in the devices apart from a camera,” he added. “It is activated in the event that periodically it is not 24/7, but there is nothing else than that.”

Matthew Fraser, New York City Chief Technology Officer.Photo by Kevin Duggan

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