Because no one carries pocket change anymore, those self-important bums in New York City actually did something useful, for once. Last month, they began installing high-speed gigabit wifi hotspots in place of old, busted payphones. Dubbed LinkNYC, they just may be the future of public communication.

Beta Tests = Mega Success

Though still in the beta testing phase, the LinkNYC hotspots are already delivering data speeds that are ten times faster than the city’s current public internet. Each sleek, aluminum hub is as tall as a basketball hoop (regulation height, not the eight-foot level you and your junior high friends would lower the adjustable rim to so you could dunk in driveway pickup games) and provides a wifi radius of 400 feet. The towers also feature built-in 911 access, USB charger outlets, Skype capabilities, and city maps.

Their most amazing feature? They’re absolutely free! That’s right: if you’ve got a wifi-enabled device, and you’re walking the streets of the Big Apple, you’ve got complimentary wifi. Well, not all the streets of the Big Apple. Right now, there are only fifteen LinkNYC hotspots up and running, and they’re all located along Third Avenue in Manhattan.

But, if all goes well—which this writer predicts it will, because, even in the biggest and most obnoxious city in the country, people today are generally big fans of wifi coverage and free $#!t, so vandalism will probably be minimal—the city hopes to install over 7,500 LinkNYC wifi hubs across all five boroughs. When that proves successful, it’s likely only a matter of time before other major cities do the same. For once, I’d be more than happy if my burgh followed Gotham’s lead.
No Mobile Device? No Problem

“But Mark,” you bellow, “I don’t have a smartphone. LinkNYC does me no good whatsoever!” Well, first of all, congratulations—legitimately—on not having a smartphone. I hate mine. Hate it. Couldn’t possibly live without it at this point, but hate it nonetheless.

Second, no worries! Every LinkNYC tower includes a built-in LinkNYC tablet that schmoes like you can use to access the internet and other city services, including the aforementioned maps. You can even make phone calls to anywhere in the country for free.

The tablets are pretty bare-bones, but hey—they’re free to use. Much like you’re not allowed to complain about the quality of free beer, no one should complain about free wifi access. Plus, at least for now, no ads appear on them. That alone is a feat worth celebrating.