This past August MacCentral brought readers news about Schlotzsky’s Deli chain owner Schlotzsky’s Inc. “Cool Cloud” network. Now Schlotzsky’s notes that it is using a grassroots movement in public Wi-Fi access to get the word out about the network: Warchalking. The company is marking sidewalks and even using advertising banners to let folks in the Austin, Texas area know that they can use some deli locations to access the Internet via their own Wi-Fi equipped computers.
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Schlotzsky’s hopes to popularize the use of its Cool Cloud network, which the company now offers in 10 Austin-area Schlotzsky’s Deli locations, as well as a Houston restaurant. Schlotzsky’s president and CEO John Wooley has previously indicated his interest in expanding Cool Cloud to other locations nationwide.
Austin-area Schlotzsky’s Delis already sport “Cool Deli Stations” — computer equipped with games and Internet access used by patrons. The Cool Cloud network provides users with Wi-Fi equipped laptops and pocket computers — including AirPort-equipped PowerBooks and iBooks — the ability to log on to the Net, surf the Web, and check e-mail while they enjoy Schlotzsky’s sandwiches. And unlike other Wi-Fi spots announced by Starbucks coffee shops and Borders bookstores, Schlotzsky’s network access is free. The company has wired up its “Cool Cloud” locations with T1 lines provided by Texas.net, a regional Internet service provider.
“Warchalking” is a recent phenomenon popularized by Matt Jones, a London-area Wi-Fi user who has resurrected a practice of Depression-era hobos who would use chalk marks to communicate with each other to show where they could find food, shelter, and avoid trouble. Users who discover publicly accessible Wi-Fi spots mark the location on the sidewalk or building to let others know using a symbol that looks like two half moons.
Wooley said that Schlotzsky’s plan is to share its wireless connectivity with neighborhood schools, libraries and community centers. “We’re talking with schools, libraries and community leaders to find ways to bring free Internet access to people who aren’t able to afford it on their own,” he said.
Publicly accessible Schlotzsky’s locations in Austin include:
The Houston location on San Felipe Street is also a Cool Cloud location.