November 8, 2002 9:08 AM PST
Want some Wi-Fi with that sandwich?
The company on Saturday will officially launch its Schlotzsky's Deli Cool Cloud network, which will allow people with Wi-Fi wireless setups on their computers or handhelds to get online for free. Wi-Fi, also known as 802.11b, is a technology that allows the creation of wireless networks with a radius of around 300 feet.
"Free Internet access just makes sense to us," said John Wooley, Schlotzsky's CEO. "Now that we have the signal in our restaurants, we'd like to share it with the neighborhood and communities where we operate."
The company is launching the Wi-Fi network at 10 restaurants near the University of Texas at Austin with plans to expand it in the future. It even will start "warchalking," or marking, the sidewalks outside of the delis offering the free service.
Originally an underground system of notifying users of free wireless systems, warchalking is increasingly going mainstream. Corporate sponsors are joining renegade warchalkers in marking up the sidewalks so people know where to get free access. The idea stems from the system hobos used during the Depression to notify others of locations where they could find free meals.
The Wi-Fi networks were introduced just a couple of years ago, but already there are an estimated 15 million so-called hot spots, or places where people can link up, in homes and businesses across the United States.
But the practice of sharing networks is drawing controversy in addition to free Internet access seekers. Some broadband providers have begun cracking down on customers who let others use their networks for free.