City pulls plug on internet browser in LinkNYC tablets after porn complaints

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The web-browsing feature of New York City's sidewalk Wi-Fi kiosks will be disabled after critics complained that homeless people were monopolizing them and using them to watch porn.

LinkNYC said Wednesday it will remove web browsing from the kiosks while it works with city officials to explore potential solutions to their abuse.

The kiosks will still provide free domestic calls, phone charging and fast Wi-Fi with the user's own devices.

LinkNYC has installed 400 of the kiosks across three boroughs. A filtering system is supposed to block inappropriate content but there have been reports of users watching porn and even masturbating in public.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio says pulling the plug on the internet will address concerns City Hall has received from New Yorkers.

According to the city, 400 Links have been installed in three boroughs, and have been used more than 21 million times by nearly 475,000 New Yorkers and visitors.

But the mayoral spokesman says there were concerns about loitering and extended use of the LinkNYC kiosks.

"The Mayor is addressing these quality-of-life complaints head on," the spokesman said. "Removing the internet browser from LinkNYC tablets will not affect the other great services LinkNYC provides - superfast Wi-Fi, free phone calls, or access to key City services - but will address concerns we've heard from our fellow New Yorkers."

"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," said a statement from LinkNYC. "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.

LinkNYC says the network is the fastest broadband publicly available in New York City.

(Some information from the Associated Press.)