No Strings Attached: Local Company Offers Free Wi-Fi
May 11, 2005 6:22 PM
The term “hot spots” has a new meaning and is catching the attention of many internet users across the city.
Wireless Internet is changing the city one commercial area at a time by making the ‘net accessible anywhere - from the local coffee shop to a bus stop bench.
AnchorFree Wireless, a Sunnyvale wireless internet provider, is supplying its services free of charge.
The company has 80 Wi-Fi local locations, which makes the internet available through a wireless-capable computer without the use of a telephone or data line.
In the past, AnchorFree charged its customers a $4.99 monthly fee. In March 2005, the company announced free service on University Avenue, near the Stanford University campus, in response to
The article criticized the company for providing a service for a charge, when students could access Internet service free of cost in university dorms and at other areas on campus.
“Out of all users, students use the Internet the most, and students are the toughest market,” said Denis Hiller, AnchorFree Wireless communications director. “The company’s goal now is to provide a widespread Internet service for free.”
AnchorFree’s focus is to provide access to every third building in a consumer district, concentrating on such places as cafes and restaurants.
In Palo Alto, more than 20 percent of the firm’s users are Stanford students.
Hiller also said the company did not make a significant amount of money while charging for its service and had a smaller amount of users signing up for the service compared to the number of users now.
Currently, the company makes its profits through the backing of private investors.
“Why gamble when our vision is to provide free wireless access in popular commercial areas,” said Hiller.
Chestnut Street Coffee Roastery Manager Jesse Pina said since offering Wi-Fi service, business has picked up. Since the Roastery is out of range of AnchorFree’s Wireless services, Pina uses an alternative service provider, but remains cautious of some Wi-Fi services.
“(Wi-Fi) has helped pedestrian traffic, because it provides accessibility to a variety of people, including tourists,” said Pina. “Wireless Internet users can put themselves at risk by using a non-secure line, and people who use credit cards are more vulnerable to hackers getting their information.”
Pina offers wireless service through ZRNETSERVICE, which has been providing public Internet access in the Bay Area since 2000, and said his Wi-Fi service is secure. Pina charges his customers $5 for unlimited use in a 24-hour window.
Richard Dziadur, director of operations for SF State’s department of information technology, said he also thinks security is a problem.
“Hacking is one of the issues surrounding wireless access,” said Dziadur. “At the same time, free wireless access is a great technological advantage.”
Vick Cumming's, an employee of Pete's Coffee on Chestnut Street, said although the shop should recieve AnchorFree's WiFi service the building does not pick up the internet signal, but is a service they would like to provide for customers.
SF State is Wi-Fi accessible in some areas throughout the campus. Coverage includes the Malcolm X Plaza, J. Paul Leonard Library, the outdoor area between the Humanities building and the Cesar Chavez Student Center, the area between Burk Hall and Fine arts, and the area between the Business building and the Health and Social Services building.
Students can access the service through a wireless card that supports the 802.11b wireless standard. The SF State Bookstore carries a variety of wireless cards from about $50-100.
Computer science major Nija Mushruwala has used Wi-Fi throughout the campus and mentioned its advantages and disadvantages.
“The Wi-Fi connection on campus is like a yo-yo,” said Mushruwala. “When you get a connection it’s a decent connection, but it drops a lot and can be slower. It’s harder to pick up a quality signal because of steel and concrete that surrounds the campus.”
T-Mobile provides access at some retail locations, including Borders bookstore and Starbucks Coffee, and charges its users up to $40 a month or $6 an hour.
“The difference is (other Wi-Fi companies) provide wireless access to a single location for a charge, while we provide access to many locations for free,” said Hiller.
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