Writing for The Boston Globe , D.C. Denison noted that WiFi hot spots are popping up
all over the place. And to illustrate the different ways they’re cropping up, Denison points to the example put forth on Boston’s Newbury Street.
Part of Boston’s tony Back Bay neighborhood, Newbury Street is a posh shopping area chock-full of boutiques, bistros and shops. There’s inevitably a few corporate retail establishments, too, including Starbucks coffee shoppes.
Starbucks recently embarked on
a nationwide program with wireless access provider T-Mobile to offer pay-to-play wireless networking in Starbucks locations nationwide, expanding the reach of spotty regional access the company had already tried. Newbury Street Starbucks customers with PowerBooks and iBooks can now surf from their laptops as they sip their lattes — for a price.
By comparison, Apple Specialist Tech Superpowers Inc. is promoting its NewburyOpen.net network — even going so far as to park
a WiFi-boosting car that extends their network across the street from Starbucks, complete with warchalked windows to let net-savvy pedestrians know it’s a hot spot. What makes NewburyOpen.net exceptional is that it’s free, and offered by various Newbury Street businesses to help drive pedestrian traffic to their establishments.
Boston lags behind other major cities like New York and San Francisco when it comes to the proliferation of wireless networking hotspots, but it’s catching on, to be sure. Denison said that sixteen area hotels already offer WiFi connectivity, and nearly 100 spots exist city-wide for folks to get online, “a mix of idealistic free networks and adventurous for-pay projects, many of them still searching for a sustainable business model.”
So does having free wireless access in your shop help? Neila Hingorani, general manager of NewburyOpen.net participant Trident Booksellers and Cafe, told Denison that the answer is yes. “We definitely have new, regular customers who come here just because of the WiFi,” she said.
Sarah Kim, a wireless analyst with Boston-based technology research firm The Yankee Group, told Denison that there’s room for both pay-to-play and free business models. With increased ease of use and a growing population of college students and tech-savvy professionals accustomed to wireless networking, there’s going to be a growing population of consumers anxious for the technology. Kim said that WiFi access will grow “in fits and starts. They’ll be developments on the free side, then on the pay side. … Ultimately both groups are going to play a role.”