If you're one of the 40 million Americans who spend most of the day on the road, the Internet may soon be just a "fill up" away. Not only are telecom giants like T-Mobile distributing Wi-Fi Web access across thousands of walk-in coffee shops and bagel emporiums, but new ventures also want you to drive up and log on in front of gas stations, burger joints and convenience stores.
Starting with 350 locations in Arizona, a Toshiba America/WorkingWild partnership plans to turn some 8,000 Circle K markets and ConocoPhillips-affiliated gas stations into hotspots by mid-2004. Similarly, Cometa Networks hopes to be dishing up Wi-Fi at another 20,000 gas stations a few months later.
"In the top 50 metro areas, people will be no more than five minutes away from one of these, walking or driving," promises Steve Harris, former vice president of Cometa. You'll run into a fast-food joint or park outside a service station, flip open your notebook and start receiving e-mail or other files.
Formerly an editorial executive for several high-tech publications, Eric Bender is a freelance writer in Boston.