LinkNYC Shuts Off Web Tablets To Stop, Ummm, Problematic Browsing

September 14, 2016 by Dave Haynes


It should not surprise anyone who’s been on the operations side of digital signage networks that the flashy and very expensive interactive information stations that are replacing payphones around the sidewalks of New York are running into problems with the general public.

If you’ve never done operations work, you assume the general public is uniformly well-behaved, and everything will be fine. If you have done ops, you know better.

As The Verge reports, the team behind New York’s LinkNYC hubs has announced it is shutting off the web browsing capabilities of the tablet screens embedded in the 400 sidewalk units that have so far been installed and activated.

We … know 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. The kiosks were never intended for anyone’s extended, personal use and we want to ensure that Links are accessible and a welcome addition to New York City neighborhoods.

Starting today, we will be removing web browsing on all Link tablets while we work with the City and community to explore potential solutions, like time limits. Other tablet features—free phone calls, maps, device charging, and access to 311 and 911—will continue to work as they did before, and nothing is changing about LinkNYC’s superfast Wi-Fi. As planned, we will continue to improve the Link experience and add new features for people to enjoy while they’re on the go.

The inappropriate usage, likely the big driver on this decision, includes homeless people who were setting up and web browsing for the day, and some sadly damaged souls who were finding their way online to naughty images and satisfying their urges pretty much on the spot – to heck with onlookers.


Which means the only way I’d use those touchscreens is if I was wearing a Level 4  bio-safety suit, and using my elbows to navigate.

The free wifi still works.

I still think the things will get the crap beat out of them when they get deeper into the boroughs. Time will tell.

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