City opens Internet free-access zone

Long Beach Portal

Dial-up connections and Internet access fees are a thing of the past to

visitors in Long Beach, Calif. Visitors to the downtown area can now connect

to the Internet for free, courtesy of the city's new Downtown Wireless Internet

District.

The new arrangement in Long Beach enables users in particular "hot zones"

— such as downtown restaurants and coffee shops — to access the Internet

free of charge.

Long Beach can provide the high-speed access at no charge thanks to

a network with wireless access points provided by Intermec Technologies

Corp. These access points provide a broadband connection to a centrally

located switch at speeds up to 11 megabits/sec. An average dial-up connection

runs at 54 kilobits/sec.

All travelers need is a laptop computer and a wireless network card,

said Lois Fenimore, senior communications specialist for Intermec. "Once

the user opens the Internet browser, they are automatically directed to

portal site for Long Beach's Pine Avenue Hot Zone. The users must then provide

an e-mail address and are then able to surf the Web free of charge," she

said.

According to Bruce Mayes, wireless zone project manager for the economic

development bureau in Long Beach, users are limited to one hour. "That is

more than enough time," he said. Users must also be in a four-block area

of downtown Long Beach in order to gain access to the portal, he noted.

The majority of funding was provided by donations from vendors and sponsors.

The city pays the annual $4,000 connection fee.

"The restaurateurs have given us very positive feedback," Mayes said.

"We have received a lot of 'now that's very cool' kind of responses."

The free Internet access has been available since Nov. 15, 2002, and

the scheduled public launch will be today.

According to Mayes, this is just the beginning of a new concept of communication.

"It is good to hear a few pieces of good news in the technology sector at

the present time," he said.

Long Beach plans to offer similar Internet access at Long Beach Airport

within 30 to 45 days.

Caterinicchia is a reporting intern for Federal Computer Week.

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