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Council Member Corey Johnson Update: LinkNYC Kiosks Changes

(COUNCIL MEMBER COREY JOHNSON) September 15, 2016 — The LinkNYC program is an exciting development for our City, a welcome replacement for the outdated phone booths of the past. Unfortunately, the implementation of this program in my district has had some unintended consequences, as the kiosks have been frequently monopolized by individuals  who inappropriately create personal spaces for themselves, surfing the internet for hours at a time and prompting complaints from local residents and business owners.

Today,  the operators of LinkNYC responded to our concerns about the program and agreed to disable internet browsing features on the kiosks. This will help prevent inappropriate use of kiosks and allow them to continue providing free public wi-fi, free phone calls, access to Google maps and charging of electronic devices.

Click here or scroll to the bottom of this email to read a New York Times article about this development.

I will continue to monitor this program to ensure that it provides optimal public value. Thank you for your feedback and advocacy as we strive to make New York City an even better place to live.

In service,

Corey Johnson
Council Member, 3rd Council District

(NY TIMES) Free Wi-Fi Kiosks Were to Aid New Yorkers. But There’s an Unsavory Side.

By Patrick McGeehan
September 14, 2016

The Wi-Fi kiosks were designed to replace phone booths and allow users to consult maps, maybe check the weather or charge their phones. But they have also attracted people who linger for hours, sometimes drinking and doing drugs and, sometimes, boldly watching pornography on the sidewalks.

Now, yielding to complaints, the operators of the kiosks, LinkNYC network, are shutting off their internet browsers.

The switch is an admission that in some neighborhoods, particularly in Midtown Manhattan, the kiosks have created more problems than benefits. Elected officials have demanded changes in the system, saying they were overwhelmed with complaints from residents and businesses about people spending hours entertaining themselves.

Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced the network with fanfare in February as a key plank of his promise to bridge the digital divide in the city. The kiosks were designed to replace more than 7,500 public pay phones and bring free Wi-Fi and phone service to every neighborhood.

Users were expected to make short stops at the kiosks. But they quickly attracted the homeless and other idle people who took full advantage of the unlimited access to the internet to watch movies and play music for hours.

Corey Johnson, a city councilman whose district encompasses Greenwich Village, Chelsea and part of Midtown, said the Police Department had asked for the removal of “several problematic kiosks” along Eighth Avenue. He said he had observed people watching pornography on the kiosk screens with children nearby.

“These kiosks are often monopolized by individuals creating personal spaces for themselves, engaging in activities that include playing loud explicit music, consuming drugs and alcohol, and the viewing of pornography,” he wrote in a letter last month to officials of the city and LinkNYC.

Mr. Johnson said that in a Sept. 1 meeting at his office, officials agreed to his demand for a moratorium on the installation of additional kiosks in Eighth Avenue or Ninth Avenue in his district.

In explaining the change, the operators of LinkNYC said that “some users have been monopolizing the Link tablets and using them inappropriately, preventing others from being able to use them while frustrating the residents and businesses around them.”

They said they would switch off the browsing functions on the computer tablets built into the kiosks as a temporary solution while they consider permanent changes, including limiting how long people can use the tablets. The 400 kiosks that have been activated in Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens will continue to offer fast Wi-Fi, access to Google maps, free phone calls and charging of electronic devices, the operators said.

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Council Member Corey Johnson
224 West 30 Street
Suite 1206
New York, NY 10001