Cryptome has been documenting in recent weeks the block-by-block smart upgrading of New York City’s obsolete public telephony system. Trenches are being chopped along the street, rope pulled through underground innerduct, rebar placed to receive poured concrete, galvanized steel pedestals positioned with orange power cable and fiber poking out of conduit.
Installed onto the legacy footprint of the city’s former sidewalk payphone system, 7,500 to 10,000 ’Structures’ of the dispersed LinkNYC system will broadcast ’relevant’ ads on 55” HD screens to subsidize the kiosks’ free gigabit-speed Internet service, free public wi-fi, free domestic phone calls, free USB phone-charging outlets and a 911 emergency call button.
Assemblages like these undergird smart cities that are consolidating around us, with boosterish zeal, for the supposed benefit of municipal efficiency, convenience and social equity. Big data collection technologies that enable the Internet of Things (#IoT) are embedding into larger scale urban infrastructures towards that end.
But can smart space be democratic public space when speech and acts are ubiquitously recorded and reported? Are apps ’free’ when they harvest vast troves of personal data without consent?