The removal of pay phones in New York City began in 2015, and LinkNYC is the technology that essentially replaced them. CityBridge developed LinkNYC, which look like digital billboards that offer free high-speed WiFi to the streets of New York.
Since LinkNYC was installed, it has facilitated over 3 billion WiFi sessions with more than 10 million subscribers. The digital billboards also display PSAs, art and other local information. LinkNYC will soon be providing 5G coverage to New York City.
The old payphone that once stood outside 745 7th Avenue will be brought to the Museum of the City of New York as part of its new “Analog City” exhibit. The exhibit looks back at life in the city before computers.
While there are no more freestanding, public pay phones left in New York City, LinkNYC says they could still exist – on private property. There are also four “Superman booths,” or full-length phonebooths left in the city, but it is unclear if their phones are in service.
“As a native New Yorker, saying goodbye to the last street payphone is bittersweet because of the prominent place they’ve held in the city’s physical landscape for decades,” Matthew Fraser, commissioner of the Office of Technology and Innovation, said in a statement. “Just like we transitioned from the horse and buggy to the automobile and from the automobile to the airplane, the digital evolution has progressed from pay phones to high-speed Wi-Fi kiosks to meet the demands of our rapidly changing daily communications needs.”
In 2018, after U.K. officials realized the country’s pay phones were largely out of commission, many were removed – but some were refurbished and sold, giving the iconic red booths a second life.