IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Crime warning over plans for Wi-Fi kiosks in streets

Fears thieves will target device-charging ‘Link’ points

05 May, 2017 — By Jane Clinton

BT want to place more than 20 ‘Link’ kiosks around Islington – leading to warnings that users could become vulnerable to thieves

NEW phone kiosks planned for Islington have been met with objections from amenity groups who have warned that the free Wi-Fi and device charging they offer could play into the hands of thieves.

Kate Calvert, from the Better Archway Forum and the Islington Society, has listed a number of objections to more than 22 BT “Link” kiosks proposed for the borough, including one near Archway tube station.

She is alarmed that Islington – which has a widespread problem with mobile phone thefts – would agree to the kiosks as she argues people will congregate to use the free Wi-Fi, making them “fair game” for thieves. The kiosks would also offer USB ports for “device charging”, according to BT’s promotional material.

“I am concerned that such kiosks would be facilitating phone thefts,” she said.

In a similar kiosk development in New York, she added, people gathered near the kiosks to use the free Wi-Fi to watch pornography on their phones.

Kate Calvert

Those opposed to the kiosks fear they will add “street clutter” and have questioned why, given the prevalence of mobile phone ownership, such a high number of kiosks are necessary.

The position of the digital displays at drivers’ eyeline could, campaigners warn, distract drivers and cause accidents.

“What is sought is for private business to be allocated an inappropriately significant part of the public realm with only limited public benefits in return,” said Ms Calvert.

The LinkUK kiosks are a partnership between BT, urban innovation company Intersection and UK outdoor advertising company, Primesight.

According to BT’s website, the kiosks will offer free landline and mobile phone calls, mobile device charging, access to maps, directions and local services. It plans for 750 to be installed in central London and cities across the UK.

The website adds: “These services will come at no cost to users or taxpayers.” It says funding will come from the Links’ digital displays.

It “intends” to allocate 5 per cent of the kiosks’ advertising airtime “to non-commercial good causes to benefit local communities working with councils”.

The applications are expected to go before a council planning committee later in the summer.

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