When it comes to acceptance of New York City’s rapidly growing network of sidewalk kiosks offering “free super fast Wi-Fi,” some people are Nekeya Browns and some are Alex Padillas.
As soon as the LinkNYC booths were activated in their Washington Heights neighborhood this month, Ms. Brown celebrated by plugging in her headphones and swaying to some Marvin Gaye tunes; Mr. Padilla, in his Yankees jersey, stood a few feet back, reluctant even to touch the keyboard for fear of having his pocket of personal data picked.
Mr. Padilla, 60, said his primary concern was “having to give them information,” not that he was certain who “they” were. Ms. Brown, a young woman in brightly patterned tights, was practically giddy as she appraised a glowing kiosk on West 142nd Street in Manhattan.
“Whoever thought of this was a great person,” she said, listing all of the benefits of the kiosks. “I told a homeless lady that whenever you need to call your family, you can use this.”
And so it goes in the first stage of the citywide rollout of these curbside machines that promise swift connections to the internet, phone service and ports for charging cellphones and other devices, all at no cost to the users. With the activation this week of the first units to be installed in Queens, there will be about 300 online, almost all of them in Manhattan.
Along Eighth Avenue in Midtown, some homeless people are camping around the kiosks. Sascha Freudenheim, who runs a consulting firm on West 36th Street, said the way some people were using the kiosks “seems completely counter to their purpose.” Mr. Freudenheim said he thought they would be used to help people find their way around the city, not serve as gathering spots.
Residents of more residential neighborhoods have complained that the kiosks are too bright, too loud and more attractive to idle squatters than they are to busy passers-by in need of a quick connection. Other New Yorkers are demonstrating their usual skepticism, eyeing the kiosks warily and wondering what the catch is.
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Aniya Lee, 16, frequently uses the kiosk at 183rd Street and Creston Avenue in the Bronx, but only to play songs on YouTube on the video screen. She said she did not feel comfortable using the Wi-Fi or connecting her phone to the USB outlet.
“For some reason, I don’t trust it,” she said. “They’re trying to get everyone’s information.”
City officials are hoping that the public’s long-term relationship with the tall, slim kiosks settles in somewhere between standoffish and clingy. They admit they did not know what to expect; no other city has tried to create anything quite as extensive as LinkNYC.
“This is an unprecedented project,” said Anne Roest, commissioner of the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. “We are going to have to make adjustments to make them better. A lot of these things are things that really we weren’t anticipating when we went live.”
If all goes according to the plan, the kiosks will be as commonplace as pay phones once were: more than 7,500, spread throughout every neighborhood of the city. Most of them will replace former pay phones, though the company installing them has begun choosing additional sidewalk sites.
That company, actually a consortium known as CityBridge, is behind schedule on the rollout. Under its franchise agreement with the city, more than 500 kiosks were to be working by this month, in all five boroughs.
CityBridge executives said their progress was slowed by several factors, including the strike by Verizon employees and a lawsuit filed by Telebeam, a company that controlled about 1,300 pay phones in the city. Telebeam challenged the city’s granting of an exclusive franchise to CityBridge; a federal judge dismissed the suit this month.
Jen Hensley, the general manager of LinkNYC, said some former pay phone sites had proven unsuitable for the kiosks. In those instances CityBridge has started seeking approvals from local community boards to place the machines in other spots.
So far, most of the kiosks have been placed along Third and Eighth Avenues in Manhattan, aligned with fiber-optic cable already laid to provide fast wireless connections to the internet. After Queens, the network will extend to Brooklyn and then to Staten Island, Ms. Hensley said.
CityBridge has only just begun to assess how successful the system is, Ms. Hensley said. But city officials said they were pleased with the early use and the adjustments CityBridge had made, including lowering the maximum volume at night in response to noise complaints.
Nearly 275,000 people have registered to use the kiosks, which requires users to provide an email address. Once a smartphone is registered, it will automatically connect to the Wi-Fi signals that radiate from the kiosks and extend 100 feet or more.
Close to one million of those connections are being made weekly, according to CityBridge statistics. In July, users initiated about 40,000 sessions on the built-in computer screens and made about 23,000 phone calls per week.
Last weekend, experts on digital data and online privacy were wondering what CityBridge planned to do with all of the personal information made available. Benjamin Dean, a fellow in cybersecurity and internet governance at Columbia University, and Mariko Hirose, a senior staff attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, raised that question at a gathering of hackers in Manhattan.
“We don’t have plans to collect any additional data in the future,” Ms. Hensley said.
Contrary to some people’s fears, she said, the consortium is barred from sending ads to users’ phones.
“We know way less about you than your mobile phone provider does,” she said.
CityBridge maintains that its business model involves selling ads on the large, lighted panels on the sides of the kiosks, essentially small billboards that will line the busiest blocks of the city. It has pledged to share at least 0 million in ad revenue with the city over the first 12 years.
But Mr. Dean said he was doubtful, in part because of the involvement of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. It owns Sidewalk Labs, an investor in one of the members of the CityBridge consortium.
“What Google’s doing here is taking the business model that they’ve perfected in the online world and bringing it into the real world,” Mr. Dean said in an interview.
Despite the warnings of critics like Mr. Dean, city officials seem determined to push ahead with a network that they say will provide valuable benefits, to people much like Jose Soto, a 35-year-old Washington Heights resident.
On a hot day in early July, Mr. Soto squatted in the shade near a LinkNYC kiosk, typing texts on his basic cellphone to his wife in Panama. “I don’t pay my internet this month,” he said with a shrug. “This is good for a lot of people.”
Sourced by www.eadvantech.co.kr