Why pay for Wi-Fi with new street hot spots? locals say

A new Link NYC high-speed router on Third Ave. near E. 15th St. shortly after its installation in January.  Villager file photo by Jonathan Alpeyrie
A new Link NYC high-speed router on Third Ave. near E. 15th St. shortly after its installation in January. Villager file photo by Jonathan Alpeyrie

BY COLIN MIXSON | The city’s free wireless Internet hot spots recently installed along Third Ave. are helping some East Village businesses cope with their sometimes-tenuous Internet connections.

One mattress salesman said that, between Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Link NYC routers and an unsecure wireless signal from a nearby Capital One bank, he never has to worry when it comes to surfing the Web.

“If my service is really slow, I’ll use the Link,” said sales professional Mark Anthony, who works at the Third Ave. Sleepy’s between E. 13th and E. 14th Sts. “But sometimes that won’t connect, so I’ll use the Internet from the Capital One next door.”

The new service, which has seen payphones along Third Ave. north of E. 14th St. replaced with Link NYC kiosks emitting free Wi-Fi in a 150-foot radius, is providing passersby and pedestrians with the opportunity to save a little money off their 3G, the most common way that New Yorkers connect with the Web on their mobile devices.

Glenn Colson, a security guard who works at nearby New York University facilities, said he’s saved more than a few bucks thanks to the new service.

“I was using my data before, so this saves me some money,” Colson said. “It helps when I’m sending e-mails and stuff.”

A recent New York Post report quoted ecstatic Third Ave. residents and merchants who were eager to cancel service from their paid-for Internet providers in the wake of Link NYC’s launch, saying there’s no point in signing checks for Time Warner and Verizon now that the city was providing the service gratis.

“I’ll definitely cancel my Time Warner,” Alex Della Rocca, who lives on E. 16th St. and Third Ave., told the Post.

But not everyone living within range of the hot spots is so eager to cut and run from their usual providers.

Skepticism abounds about the brand-new service, and some locals are concerned about privacy and security regarding the new Internet obelisks. Despite their offering encrypted network connections between customers’ devices and the hot spot, Link NYC does collect some information from users.

“I’m concerned about privacy, and I’m a little bit hesitant,” Daniel Nieves, who lives on Third Ave. between E. 13th and E. 14th Sts., told The Villager.

And some locals just don’t see the point. Bruce Ray, another Third Ave. denizen, said there’s nothing Link NYC can provide that his phone can’t already do.

“I don’t see how it would be of much value,” Ray said. “Anything it can do, I can already do on my phone.”

Link NYC is part of a citywide initiative announced by de Blasio in 2014, which will bring 7,500 free Wi-Fi hot spots to neighborhoods across the five boroughs. In addition to providing free Internet, the Link NYC kiosks allow New Yorkers to make free phone calls to anywhere in the country, as well as provide free phone charging, access to maps and city services and a spot to ring 911 in case of an emergency.