New Yorkers will no longer be able to browse the web on screens in former phone booths. The change came after reports of “lewd acts” by some users taking advantage of the free facility.
The free-to-use LinkNYC program was announced at the start of this year and 400 booths have been converted already, with an eventual goal of refitting 7,500 of the 8,000 booths or so across the city.
Each booth offers a 1GBps Wi-Fi connection that anyone can use and a charging point. For those without devices, there’s an Android tablet that allows web bowsing, free VOIP calls and a one-tap button for calling 911. The program is funded by advertising on electronic display screens on the outside of the booths.
Officials had already been forced to add filters to stop users accessing adult sites but it appears some determined single-hand surfers had found ways round it. While media reports are explicit about what some of these users have been up to, LinkNYC says only 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.”
In response, the web browsing feature will now be disabled while staff work on a solution. They’ve suggested impose a time limit on browsing sessions, which would presumably mean it was the inappropriate users rather than local residents who wind up frustrated.