New York City’s public LinkNYC wifi kiosks, though fast as hell, are becoming problematic. In response to complaints of questionable behavior at several kiosks — or, “in response to some users monopolizing the Link tablets and using them inappropriately” — LinkNYC announced on Wednesday that the tablets at the kiosks will no longer support web browsing.
“Starting today, we are removing web browsing on all Link tablets while we work with the City and community to explore potential solutions, like time limits,” the company announced.
A LinkNYC rep notes that the wifi is still available, however. So if you wander near a kiosk with your iPhone, you can still use that wifi (which has a fairly powerful signal).
The problem: Homeless people are hogging the kiosks’ tablets. At face value, that may seem innocuous enough. It might even seem like a good thing: Homeless people should have the privilege of internet access like the rest of us. The author of the press release, however, elected to not go into explicit detail.
In reality, homeless people are using the kiosks’ tablets to watch porn, and then proceeding to masturbate, according to a New York Post story published on Sunday. “Monopolizing” the tablets then is an incredible euphemism and just a partial truth. Whatever it is that these homeless are doing, they’re doing it at warp speeds: The kiosks offer free gigabit wifi to all users, and the tablets — since they’re part of the machine — no doubt boast outrageous surfing speeds.
Other homeless people are setting up outdoor living rooms in front of kiosks, replete with comfy chairs, footrests, and sound systems. Locals, as you might imagine, are not exactly pleased. It’s hard to imagine that LinkNYC failed to predict this phenomenon. Given that the kiosks are NYC’s biggest virtual, public park, all the grimy things that happen in NYC’s actual public parks were likely to occur here, too.
LinkNYC’s solution — though just a temporary patch — is to remove web browsing functionality from all 400 existing kiosks. It’s also considering setting time limits on web browsing, if it ever gets the gall to reinstall browsers. “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,” Link announced in a statement.
The kiosks’ primary features — “free phone calls, maps, device charging, and access to 311 and 911” — will continue to function.
Photos via Getty Images / Spencer Platt