Turning old payphones into new opportunities

In 2016, broadband access is not a luxuryits a necessity. We live in a world where students of all ages need the Internet to do their homework, where adults need it to look for jobsand we also live in a world where not everyone has access to this essential tool.

LinkNYC is just one part of our efforts to ensure more New Yorkers have Internet access and all the opportunities that come along with it. Its an innovative way of turning our outdated payphones into an incredibly useful resource for New Yorkers. Last week, we fully activated the first Linka state-of-the-art kiosk delivering ultra-fast Wi-Fi at a radius of over 150 feet and speeds of up to one gigabit per second. Our new Links also provide phone calls to anywhere in the United States, a tablet for Web browsing, and two USB charging portsall of which is completely free to use. By July, well have over 500 Links in all five boroughsand within eight years, there will be at least 7,500 Links citywide.

This is a no-brainer for the city and our residents. Everybody benefits from upgrading our old payphones to something far newer, infinitely more useful, and 100 percent free.

As this program expands to all five boroughs, LinkNYC will bring some relief and peace of mind to New Yorkers who rely on smartphones or pay-as-you-go data plans as their primary way of getting online. We know that 44 percent of Americans earning $30,000 or less have had to suspend or cancel service to make ends meet. LinkNYC is a game-changer for New Yorkers who struggle to pay for Internet access, for students who need to download their homework or access online resources on their way home from school, for jobseekers browsing applications on the Web, or even for parents who need to reach their kids in a pinch when their phone battery dies unexpectedly.

And, not only do New Yorkers not have to pay a quarter to use these tools, the LinkNYC program wont cost taxpayers a dime. A historic agreement with CityBridgethe consortium of tech companies responsible for installing and maintaining the Linksguarantees that New York City will receive at least half a billion dollars in revenue collected through the LinkNYC program, which is entirely paid for by advertising. This is a no-brainer for the city and our residents. Everybody benefits from upgrading our old payphones to something far newer, infinitely more useful, and 100-percent free.

One in four New York City residents doesnt have broadband access at home; that number rises to more than one-third for the lowest-income New Yorkerswhich means they are missing out on a worldwide web of information and opportunity. But this problem isnt an intractable one. Thats why our administration has committed to ensuring every New Yorker has access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband by 2025. Were working to reach this goal in various ways, such as bringing broadband to seven public housing developmentsreaching 21,000 residentsand making significant investments in broadband infrastructure over the next decade.

Innovative projects like LinkNYC are an important part of our efforts to make the digital divide a thing of the pastjust like our payphones.

Bill de Blasio is the 109th mayor of New York City.

Image via Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Read more: http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/turning-payphones-into-opportunities-de-blasio-new-york/