Mayor de Blasio Announces Sidewalk Wi-Fi Hot-Spot Network

New York City is about to become one giant Wi-Fi hotspot.

Mayor de Blasio on Thursday announced a citywide rollout of the roll-out of the LinkNYC kiosks, which will blast free wireless internet signals and will allow people to charge their phones, make free calls and look up directions.

Fifteen kiosks are already operational along Third Avenue, where the mayor made the announcement, according to the program's website. The city plans to roll out 510 of the Wi-Fi kiosks across the five boroughs by July.

During Thursday's announcement, de Blasio tested out the kiosk himself, saying the system "works beautifully."

The city experimented with providing Wi-Fi from a few payphones in 2012, then hatched the current, eight-year LinkNYC plan.

A consortium of companies, including wireless technology player Qualcomm Inc., paid the estimated $300 million installation cost and take half the revenue from the kiosks' digital advertising, projected at $1 billion over 12 years.

One of the companies told NBC 4 New York that the system will be secure enough for anyone who wants to use it. And city administrators say that people won't have to worry about their data being harvested by the government or advertisers.

"The city will only have anonymous data," said Maya Wiley, counsel to the mayor. "We do not have personally identifiable information on anyone."

The city gets the other half, more than doubling the $17 million a year it gets from payphones now.

LinkNYC isn't without opponents: A payphone company has sued the city, saying it created a monopoly for the new consortium. The city has said it believes the arrangement is legal.

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