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Internet Browsing Cut at LinkNYC Kiosks to Curtail Porn and Squatters

By Noah Hurowitz | September 14, 2016 2:34pm
 Valerie Mason saw a man sleeping in a plush recliner, plugged into a LinkNYC kiosk at East 49th Street and Third Avenue, on July 4.
Valerie Mason saw a man sleeping in a plush recliner, plugged into a LinkNYC kiosk at East 49th Street and Third Avenue, on July 4.
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Valerie Mason

MANHATTAN — Users of LinkNYC internet kiosks will no longer be able to browse the web on the built-in tablets as the city looks for a way to prevent people from monopolizing the kiosks or using them to watch porn, officials said.

LinkNYC plans to disable web browsing over the next 48 hours at the 400 internet kiosks it has installed around the city after residents in neighborhoods with the kiosks complained that people were turning them into virtual living rooms — or bedrooms — by pulling up chairs, watching movies, and even masturbating in broad daylight.

“We also know that 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,” LinkNYC officials said in a statement Wednesday.

“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.”

► SEE ALSO: LinkNYC Kiosks Clogging Sidewalks With Encampments and Drug Deals, Locals Say

LinkNYC is looking into possible solutions to the problem, including implementing time limits, which Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz called for in a letter to the city last month.

LinkNYC began disabling web browsing on a handful of kiosks on Wednesday afternoon and will extend the ban to the rest of the city's kiosks over the next 48 hours, a spokesman said.

Users will still be able to use the tablets to make free phone calls, check maps, charge their phones, and access 311 and 911, and the kiosks will still provide WiFi even while the internet on the tablets is discontinued.

CityBridge, which operates LinkNYC, began installing the kiosks — meant to replace antiquated phone booths — this year and says it has installed 400 so far. The goal was to provide internet access to anyone who needs it and give people without phones the ability to make calls and check the web.

The city aims to bring 4,550 of the machines to the city by July 2019, according to CityBridge.

But almost immediately after the first kiosks popped up, people began complaining that some users were hogging them, clogging the sidewalk, and watching lewd content on the tablets.

Diaz, who wrote the letter calling for time limits just one day after welcoming the kiosks to the Bronx, cheered the move.

"We’ve heard a great deal of concern from all corners of the city about the misuse of these kiosks for lewd and nefarious purposes, and today’s announcement that web browsing services will be disabled on LinkNYC kiosks is a step in the right direction," he said in a statement.

The misuse of the kiosks has also raised concerns at Manhattan Community Board 6, the board responsible for Midtown East, Murray Hill, the Flatiron, and Union Square, which will hold a meeting concerning the kiosks on Sept. 26. The board is currently asking residents of the district to fill out surveys to give feedback about LinkNYC.