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With Free Public Wi-Fi Underway, Will Other Cities Follow New York’s Path?

Don Schuett, VP of Commercial Management
August 10, 2016

By now, most of you have probably heard about a tremendous new effort underway in New York City. In case you haven’t, however, here’s the gist of it: The city recently launched LinkNYC, a public-private project to convert the city's payphones into at least 7,500 free Wi-Fi hotspots, to be called “Links”, around the city.

In an article for the New York Business Journal, reporter Michael del Castillo outlines the plan for LinkNYC's Links around the city. The city hopes to have 510 gigabit Links installed across all five boroughs by July 2016. Within the first 4 years, the city plans to have at least 4,550 Links installed and, in total, as many as 10,000 Links will be installed around the city. LinkNYC provides free Wi-Fi access within 150 feet of Links, as well as free domestic calling, 2 USB charging ports, a tablet to access the internet, and a 911 button to contact emergency services.

This public-private initiative looks to be a huge step forward for New York, and, more generally, for the concept of the “connected city” that so many industry experts have recently been talking about. This is by far the most comprehensive free Wi-Fi project to date in North America, and signals strong things for the future.

The big question that remains now that free public Wi-Fi is underway is whether other cities will follow New York’s path and, if they do, how soon.

Market research firm Frost & Sullivan, for one, sees the global smart city market as a $1.5 trillion growth opportunity by 2020 and estimates that we'll see as many as 26 global smart cities by 2025. Questions about funding, infrastructure, distribution, and even security, however, will likely need to be addressed before we start seeing smart cities pop up all over the world.

Our team here at Digital Realty | Telx joins those watching anxiously along the sidelines in anticipation of how the project will turn out. Challenges aside, this project is an exciting step towards the future. You can be sure that we’ll be keeping a close eye on the progression of LinkNYC in the coming months and years.

What do you think: will other cities follow New York’s lead and implement their own free public Wi-Fi systems, or does the world’s connected future look different? Let us know what you think by reaching out to us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn!

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