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Free WiFi is a trade-off

November 11, 2010 - Art Smith
The first step to getting on the Internet is of course getting a connection.

There are a lot of places where you can grab a free WiFi signal, and the list seems to get longer by the day.

Libraries for instance, normally provide a signal so that those with WiFi equipped computers can jump online.

Increase casual restaurants have started offering free WiFi to lure customers in with the hope they will BUY something to eat or drink.

McDonald's, which at first tried to charge for the service, now offers free WiFi at 5,000 locations. Panera Bread and Wendy’s also offer Internet free connections.

I’ve used the services more often than I care to admit. In fact I’m writing this blog while sitting at a McDonald's in Beverly.

The service has come in handy more than once lately. Part of my job is helping our sister newspapers with their websites. Several times in the past few months I’ve ended up at the golden arches to make one change or another to a website, or at times, simply to avoid the quiet of a hotel room. The fact that there is a McDonald's at nearly every exit in America has come in very handy at times.

The fact that most fast food establishments have a lot of windows means that you may not even need to get out of your car to get online.

Of course public web use does come with drawbacks. The signal is not always that great. Plus you have to put up with stuff that you don’t have to listen to in a normal office. Things such as crying babies, buzzing deep fryers, and the occasional headband wearing, strung out looking refugee from the 1960s sitting at the next table watching me like I’m the abnormal one.

The advantages out way the drawbacks, and in most cases you can get free refills. Besides, it sure beats driving up and down the street looking for a signal.


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