Only In New York?

Bill de Blasio's Worst Idea: Free Wi-Fi Kiosks for New York City

Peter McCarthy
LinkNYC Free Wi-Fi Kiosk Coming Soon - With Company
LinkNYC Free Wi-Fi Kiosk Coming Soon - With Company
Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Creative Commons License

In his short term of office, Bill de Blasio, the mayor with a big heart and an ego to go with it, has had some bad ideas, but I challenge anyone to come up with one worse than free Wi-Fi Kiosks.

You might think dissing Hillary Clinton to the point where, when he finally did go out campaigning for her, he wound up going door to door like a college freshman in Iowa. Few people answering his knock that winter day knew who he was.

Oh, sure, there was his effort to infuse the state legislature with candidates sharing his progressive philosophy and, pointedly, not Governor Cuomo's pragmatism. Two years later, repercussions still bounce down Centre Street.

But for sheer bad judgment and thickheadedness, the free Wi-Fi kiosks win going away. Except they aren't going away.

With only 400 - or 5% - of the planned 8,000 kiosks in place, they have already become a fruitful orchard for stories across the media.

And just this week, after filtering to block porn sites failed, LinkNYC, which runs the kiosks, decided to shut down the web browser option after many complaints of abuse.

People were seen pulling up couches, turning the kiosks into virtual living rooms. The New York Post reported a couple passing seven happy hours watching videos while drinking and making out in lawn chairs. Their fun ended with the woman on all fours, vomiting, and her male companion laughing about how drunk she was.

Hearing complaints about kiosk hogs tying up the screens for hours while others waited, de Blasio surmised that a New York solution would fit into place.

“I’m sure, you know, people waiting in line are making their voices heard, too, and New Yorkers are pretty vocal so I’m hopeful that takes care of it,” he said, according the Post

It didn't. Porn or a free evening out with your date can be addicting.

For LinkNYC's part, they shrug it all off as expected in the early stages of development, which in a reasonable world would not be the stage at which you expand rapidly or at all. This doesn't even seem like a beta test, more like an alpha where youthrow throw bait in the water and see what happens.

Didn't anyone know that 15% of all internet searches can be classified as porn? More surprising is the apparent lack of research before going into action, leaving whole neighborhoods open to freshly attracted bad behavior. 

Perhaps most irritating is that, although the free Wi-Fi kiosks are promoted as devices for advancing equality by making the internet freely available to all, most complaints come from Midtown and Murray Hill, not exactly internet deserts.

Less ambitious loitering has been reported with young men loudly harmonizing with obscene rappers. But probably the worst case so far is the man observed masturbating at a kiosk on 3rd Avenue and 31st Street in broad daylight on Sunday morning.

What made that incident even more grossly disturbing is that, when the young woman who was a witness reported it to the police, she was told that they couldn't do anything about it unless they saw it themselves. After she went back, took photos and posted them on Facebook, however, the cops decided that arresting him was not a bad idea, after all, again according the Post.

So, there you have it. New York City giving away for free a service for which most of us already pay a hefty monthly fee, failing to do nearly enough research to know much about what to expect and creating a whole new urban nuisance in the process.

And with 95% of the project yet to get underway... The possibilities stagger the mind.

The worst idea of the de Blasio administration, I say and rest my case.

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