Workers have started installing the first LinkNYC access points in New York City. The Verge reported spotting an installation outside a small Starbucks at 15th Street and 3rd Avenue, near Manhattan's Union Square.
LinkNYC, which is in charge of the installation, expects one or two weeks of testing will be required before New Yorkers are able to use hubs to get online, the Verge reports. Some 500 other hubs are to be installed throughout the city by mid-July to deliver free public gigabit Wi-Fi access.
According to the Link.NYC web site, the launch of LinkNYC begins with a beta phase, giving New Yorkers an opportunity to try out Link's features, provide feedback and help create the future of the sidewalk experience. Additional apps and services will be rolled out over the next few months and over the next decade.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)-backed Sidewalk Labs is an investor in Intersection, the company formed with the merger of Control Group and Titan, and Intersection is part of the consortium (CityBridge) launching LinkNYC, along with Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Civiq Smartscapes. In September, Comark launched Civiq Smartscapes, which provides the terminals that are replacing phone booths.
The project has not been without controversy, including accusations that poor neighborhoods would get slower speeds because advertisers would be less willing to sponsor booths there, The Next Web notes. The city also had Bluetooth devices removed from the booths last year after Buzzfeed reported that thousands of the phone booth advertising displays were being fitted with beacons without any public notice or consultation.
In a statement to BuzzFeed in October 2014, a Titan spokesman reiterated that the Gimbal proximity beacons do not collect user data/information and they can only be used through users' smartphones if, and only if, the user has downloaded a specific app with the technology embedded and the user has specifically opted in.
The full network calls for more than 7,500 public hubs throughout the city, each replacing an existing phone booth. Once completed, the hubs will also include USB device charging ports, touchscreen web browsing and two 55-inch advertising displays.
Mayor Bill de Blasio's office expects the five-borough ad network could generate more than $500 million in revenue for the city over 12 years. Besides advertising, the digital displays will show public service announcements.
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Article updated Dec. 30 to clarify Sidewalk Labs' role in the project.