“The deal struck by Mayor de Blasio to bring free Wi-Fi to neighborhoods across the city sounds too good to be true,” we wrote three and a half years ago, as a caveat on our praise of the shiny monoliths soon to dot New York’s sidewalks.
The prediction turned out to be accurate. Tuesday, the consortium installing the LinkNYC kiosks where dead pay phones once stood told the city it’s been unable to deliver what it promised.
The deal is getting restructured: Instead of placing 7,500 machines around the five boroughs by 2023, CityBridge will now get until 2025, with almost all of them bearing ads. It gets more time to pay the city in full, too.
Adjustments in deals between private companies making use of public space happen — but why did these changes have to be rushed? The de Blasio administration gave notice of the Franchise and Concession Review Committee meeting the day before the Memorial Day weekend. A vote was scheduled for the next business day, Tuesday.
To get its revisions through, the city had to table one proposed revision: letting kiosks be put next to bus shelters, which have their own ads.
LinkNYC, which once looked like a winner, is now shaping up as a mixed bag. When the kiosks work, they supply a fast, free Internet connection, via a built-in tablet and to your own device over Wi-Fi. But six months after they debuted, the on-board browsers were turned off because some folks were watching, well — how to put it? — films featuring the likes of Stormy Daniels.