De Blasio Administration Announces Winner of Competition to Replace Payphones with Five-Borough Wi-Fi Network

November 17, 2014

Consortium of technology, advertising and design firms wins competition to replace payphones with LinkNYC, world’s largest, fastest free municipal wi-fi network

Proposal includes modern, ADA-compliant installation to provide free nationwide calling, touch screens, charging stations and more in smaller footprint than current payphones

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Anne Roest today announced the selection of CityBridge to develop and operate a first-of-its-kind communications network, LinkNYC, to bring the world’s fastest municipal Wi-Fi to millions of New Yorkers, small businesses and visitors. The five-borough network, if approved by the City’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC), would be funded through advertising revenues, built at no-cost to taxpayers and generate more than $500 million in revenue for the City over the next 12 years.

By replacing the aging network of public pay telephones with state-of-the-art connection points called “Links,” the City aims to transform the physical streetscape—and New Yorkers’ access to information—while also creating new local jobs for the development, servicing and maintenance of the structures. Links would offer 24/7 free Internet access up to gigabit speeds, which is over 100 times faster than average public Wi-Fi, as well as a range of other services including free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., a touchscreen tablet interface to access City services, wayfinding, easy access to 911 and 311 calls, free cell phone charging and digital displays for advertising and public service announcements.

The Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC) has the responsibility for reviewing and approving proposed franchises and will hold a public hearing before taking a vote. Information about the FCRC can be found at http://www.nyc.gov/html/mocs/html/programs/franchise_concession_review.shtml.

“This administration has been committed to expanding affordable access to broadband for all New Yorkers from the outset. It's essential for everything we need to do to be a fair and just city, because we can't continue to have a digital divide that holds back so many of our citizens,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “With this proposal for the fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world – accessible to and free for all New Yorkers and visitors alike – we’re taking a critical step toward a more equal, open and connected city – for every New Yorker, in every borough.” 

“My administration is enthusiastic about the expansion of free municipal Wi-Fi to every corner of Brooklyn. Every community must be connected to the information superhighway, so we can make sure no New Yorker is left behind as we travel towards progress. I thank Mayor de Blasio and DOITT Commissioner Roest for their commitment to transforming our aging public payphones into state-of-the-art connection points, and I look forward to working closely with the Administration to discuss the siting of these services,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“It is fantastic that New York City is moving our communications infrastructure into the 21st century. With lightning-fast free Wi-Fi, mobile phone charging ports, free local calling and more, public payphones are transforming into a neighborhood asset. With real community input to select site locations, this new technology will reach New Yorkers where they need and want it. After years of working with DoITT and the Mayor’s Office on our public payphone infrastructure, this is a big win for businesses, residents, and tourists alike,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

“These ‘Links’ make perfect sense in the most tech-savvy city in the world to replace the pay phone, which for a long time served an important public function, but no longer do. The public in the 21st Century is clamoring for more public Wi-Fi and faster speeds, and this project will fill that need. Just as exciting is the fact that the costs to build this system will not be borne by city taxpayers.  A critical part of ensuring the success of such an ambitious endeavor is proper site selection. I am pleased that the Administration has recognized the uniqueness of Staten Island, much of which remains and wishes to stay a bedroom community, and will be working closely with us to guarantee these kiosks are placed at appropriate locations,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo.

“The culmination of years of work gathering public feedback and ideas, NYC Link is the latest, biggest example of the transformational power of technology done well,” said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) Commissioner Anne Roest. “And it represents an elegant, modern, and adaptable solution to one of the pressing needs of our time: the expansion of broadband access. I thank the many people – our wonderful franchise administration staff especially – who worked long and hard to make this day a reality.”

“Today’s announcement showcases the power of government – and the power of public-private partnerships – to improve everyday life, to empower New Yorkers and equalize through technology,” said Minerva Tantoco, Chief Technology Officer for the City of New York. “LinkNYC is an initiative that could only be made in New York – it harnesses the latest technologies and it is a true partnership of the world’s leaders in technology, telecommunications, advertising and design.”

“We are leading the nation for future smart cities with this innovative technology that will provide an unprecedented network of free public Wi-Fi service,” said James Vacca, Chair of the Committee on Technology. “This joint public- private venture with partners under the umbrella of CityBridge, LLC will boost small businesses and reenergize the way our neighborhoods look and function. I look forward to partnering with Mayor de Blasio to bring this to groundbreaking technology to all five boroughs.”

“DOITT is moving New York City into the future with this groundbreaking plan to transform existing payphone infrastructure to blazing fast wifi hubs, enabling millions of residents and visitors to easily connect to the internet. I look forward CityBidge’s implementation of this critical project that will establish New York as a leader in free wi-fi and telecommunication,” said Councilman David G. Greenfield, Chair of the Committee on Land Use.

“Leave it to Mayor de Blasio to take the 'pay' out of 'payphone' by providing free nationwide phone calls and free wifi to every New Yorker,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Free wifi, free calls, free phone charging, along with free and open source software tablet, all with guaranteed upgrades, represents another big step from Mayor de Blasio bringing us from payphones that hadn't changed much since 1898. This program will bring us one step closer to universal broadband in public areas and every New Yorker will be able to look forward to a much lower data usage bill from their mobile phone company.”

The proposed Link structures were designed by award-winning Antenna Design team Masamichi Udagawa and Sigi Moeslinger to complement and enhance the New York landscape. CityBridge has committed to establishing a facility for local production and repair in New York City, ensuring that the sleek, durable aluminum structures will be manufactured and assembled within the five boroughs. The LinkNYC program is expected to create 100 to 150 new full-time jobs in manufacturing, technology and advertising, as well as an estimated 650 support jobs.

CityBridge, a New York City-based consortium of leading experts in technology, advertising, connectivity and user experience, was selected through a competitive request for proposals (RFP) process. Proposals were evaluated on the basis of technical features, functional efficiency, aesthetics, security, durability, accommodation of people with disabilities, articulated public benefits and the strength of the implementation team, among other features.

CityBridge members include:

  • Titan – The country’s leading media company focused on providing innovative programs for municipalities, including New York City, where it is the largest and most experienced payphone franchisee. Titan would oversee LinkNYC’s operations and manage the advertising program.
  • Control Group – As an NYC-native technology, strategy and user experience design firm, Control Group would be responsible to deliver, from concept to production, an exceptional technology and user experience for all New Yorkers.
  • Qualcomm Incorporated – As a world leader in Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G and next-generation wireless technologies, Qualcomm would serve as technology advisor, especially as to wireless connectivity technology, to help ensure the LinkNYC network stays abreast with the latest developments in applicable communications technology.
  • Comark – Specializing in the design and manufacturing of interactive hardware solutions that withstand rugged environments, Comark would design, engineer and manufacture the Links to create durable, robust and reliable structures.

CityBridge’s extended team includes:

  • Transit Wireless – Founded and based in New York City, Transit Wireless would be primarily responsible for LinkNYC’s high-speed fiber infrastructure. Transit Wireless is now in the process of providing the wireless and Wi-Fi technology for 279 underground subway stations in NYC through a partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
  • Antenna Design  – Award-winning, New York City-based industrial design team specializing in people-centered design, Antenna would be responsible for the iconic physical design of the Link.

Construction of the LinkNYC network would begin in early 2015, with the first structures to begin replacing existing public pay telephones by the end of the year. Under a non-exclusive franchise agreement with DoITT, CityBridge would be authorized to build up to 10,000 Links across the five boroughs. Identification of new locations for these structures would take place through an open and transparent public process in partnership with Borough Presidents, City Council Members, Community Boards and Business Improvement Districts.

“With LinkNYC, we have the opportunity to set the new standard in how municipalities deliver Wi-Fi to residents while reinventing the digital advertising sector, enabling the city to generate millions in new revenue. We are proud to serve as the managing member of CityBridge and honored to work with New York City to make LinkNYC a reality,” said Dave Etherington, CityBridge member and Chief Strategy Officer, Titan.

“Control Group is excited to be leading the user experience strategy and technology development for LinkNYC  – a program that will fundamentally transform New York City and set the standard for Responsive Cities for years to come with super-connectivity, accessible City services, open data and insight-driven advertising,” said Colin O’Donnell, City Bridge member and Founding Partner at Control Group.

“As a leader in wireless technologies for more than 25 years, Qualcomm continues to support initiatives that improve connectivity to enhance the experiences of communities around the world,” said Derek Aberle, CityBridge member and President, Qualcomm Incorporated. “With the CityBridge collaboration, we will contribute this expertise to provide residents and visitors of New York City with the fastest public Internet speeds available – something that will benefit the community on a daily basis.”

“Comark’s expertise in building rugged user-friendly structures will help to ensure that New Yorkers will have a seamless communications experience when using the Links across the City.  We specifically engineered our terminals to work in the varied weather and physical environs around NYC, and we are deeply committed to not only creating jobs but also creating Links that will stand the test of time,” Steve Schott, CityBridge member and president & CEO, Comark.

“Antenna Design has joined the team to create a useful and elegant design for the Link structure. Being longtime residents of the City and having worked on many NYC subway designs, we deeply care about our public spaces. We are excited to have a part in shaping the experience of this new City icon. We have strived to create a design that is very welcoming and timeless from both an aesthetic and practical point of view,” said Masamichi Udagawa and Sigi Moeslinger, Antenna Design, CityBridge extended team member.

“The Mission of Per Scholas is to help bridge the digital divide in the inner city by providing job training and access to technology services. The CityBridge-NYC partnership will be a game changer for this community,” said Angie Kamath, Executive Director of Per Scholas, a nonprofit workforce development organization based in the South Bronx. “Our ability to recruit, train and place local NYC residents in every borough as the corps of field workers who will maintain the thousands of LinkNYC installations is a game changer in terms of job creation, community engagement and technology connections.”

“LinkNYC is an amazing opportunity to think about the innovative use of infrastructure paired with community engagement to address issues of public access to information,” said Alan Davidson, Director of the Open Technology Institute (OTI) at the New America Foundation. “We look forward to supporting CityBridge and the City of New York to maximize the impact and public benefit that is achieved through this initiative.”

To learn more about LinkNYC, visit http://www.Link.nyc.

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