International phone calls are expensive. But in Newark, N.J., you can make them for free. All you need to do is walk over to one of the city's newly installed kiosks in neighborhoods across the city.
“Free is pretty good,” quipped Martin O’Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, as he moderated a panel discussion in mid-October at the 2018 MetroLab Network Summit on the campus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark.
The project, known as LinkNWK (pronounced “Link Newark”), launched Oct. 16, 2018, and is a partnership between the city, the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, NJIT and Intersection, a maker of kiosks and the supporting software technology. Intersection will install up to 45 of the kiosks all across the city in the coming weeks.
“LinkNewark is incredible,” said Mayor Ras J. Baraka, speaking during the mayoral panel at the Summit. “It allows people to make phone calls anyplace in the world they want to. It allows people to charge their cellphone,” said Baraka, adding that the kiosks also provide city maps, information about local events and more. In addition, the kiosks act as free Wi-Fi hot spots around the city.
The kiosks on Newark streets join other similar units in New York, London and other cities in the United Kingdom. Intersection is set to launch LinkPHL in Philadelphia in the coming weeks.
Some of the other information provided by the kiosks includes news and weather, information about cultural programs, opportunities for civic engagement, local photography and more.
Like many smart city projects in Newark, they are supported by Newark Fiber, a program to bring affordable gigabit-speed Internet service to Newark. The network spans some 26 miles, said Baraka. “Some of it is being used, particularly in the downtown area and some of the parks,” he said.
“Millions of people in New York and London have enjoyed Link’s free, super-fast Wi-Fi, useful information, and other free services,” said Jen Hensley, president of Link at Intersection, in a statement. “Newark is a rising star in the tech economy, and we are proud that LinkNWK will only add to this momentum.”
The kiosk services are free and are supported through advertising, similar to how kiosks are funded in other cities like Kansas City, Mo., or New York City.
“As a company, we believe it’s important to provide continual support to an area where so many of our customers and employees live, work and visit,” said Mark Krolick, vice president of marketing at United Airlines, a sponsor of the LinkNWK project, in a statement. “These new kiosks are another example of connecting Newark with the world.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated all 45 kiosks have been installed. The kiosks project is partially deployed, and more will come online in the coming weeks.