May 15, 2018

The rise of free urban internet

Intersection, the Alphabet-backed smart cities startup known for creating free internet kiosks for cities, is pushing to make free internet accessible in as many major cities as possible across the globe.

Why it matters: As more aspects of our daily lives — from healthcare to communication to travel — become dependent on internet-connected devices, the concept of providing internet as a public good is becoming more widespread.

  • Intersection is best known for its successful transformation of NYC's 7,500 pay-phones into free internet kiosks that act as hot-spots and advertising space. It's also spreading its programs to cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and even London.
  • The catch: The program is entirely funded by advertising that the company sells on LinkNYC internet kiosks, so less densely-populated cities may be a tougher sell.

There are two things a city must have in order to be viable for free internet infrastructure from Intersection, according to the company's CEO and former advertising guru Ari Buchalter.

  1. Physical infrastructure: "You've gotta have power and fiber in the grounds," Buchalter told Axios at an Axios News Shapers event in New Orleans. "Those types of infrastructure readiness is a critical factor and is a big driver of cost for the program."
  2. Critical mass of people that can be exposed to ads. "We lay out of city in terms of density a factor." In NYC, for example, you have a critical mass of people exposed to advertising. Does that mean you have to be as big or dense as NYC to work? No, absolutely not. We will work figure out what other locations in cities can work in critical mass."

The kiosks also display real-time content updates to viewers depending on their city location, like sports scores, weather updates, etc. According to Buchalter, over 50% of the content displayed on LinkNYC kiosks are showing relevant NYC content to commuters, not advertising.

  • The advertising that is shown is bought and sold digitally, and tends to often contextual alignments, like screens near Central Park that target running enthusiast, or screens in the business district that show financial ads.

Bottom line: There was a time just years ago when free internet was difficult to come by. Now, free internet kiosks are popping up around the country and abroad, with no signs of slowing down.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 5,543,439 — Total deaths: 347,836 — Total recoveries — 2,266,394Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 1,669,040 — Total deaths: 98,426 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. Trump administration: Mike Pence's press secretary returns to work after beating coronavirus.
  4. States: New York reports lowest number of new coronavirus deaths since March.
  5. Public health: The final data for remdesivir is in and its benefits are rather limited.
  6. Education: A closer look at how colleges can reopenNotre Dame president says science alone "cannot provide the answer" to reopening.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Pentagon watchdog sidelined by Trump resigns

Fine testiying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Glenn Fine, the Pentagon's principal deputy inspector general, submitted his resignation on Tuesday.

Why it matters: President Trump removed Fine as the Pentagon's acting inspector general in April 7 after a group of independent federal watchdogs selected him to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which was set up to oversee the rollout of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

New York reports lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths since March

The number of daily new coronavirus cases and deaths reported in New York was the lowest since the state started its lockdown in March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, calling Memorial Day a "pivot point" for New York.

By the numbers: 73 New Yorkers died from coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 200 people tested positive. Hospitalizations and intubations also decreased.