November 24, 2004, 12:00 AM

Barnes & Noble offers wi-fi web access in 600 stores

Joining Starbucks and others that let customers access the web from their own wireless computers while sipping coffee, Barnes & Noble is offering wi-fi wireless web access in more than 600 bookstores.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

Joining Starbucks and others that let customers access the web from their own wireless computers while sipping coffee, Barnes & Noble Inc. is offering wi-fi web access in more than 600 bookstores.

Barnes & Noble is making the wi-fi service available through SBC Communications Inc., whose SBC FreedomLink Wi-Fi provides broadband web access to more than 5,000 wi-fi hotspots in 5,000 locations, including UPS Stores and McDonald’s restaurants. SBC expects to offer its FreedomLink service in more than 20,000 locations by the end of 2006, it said.

Wi-fi, or wireless fidelity, uses antennas to wirelessly extend wireline broadband Internet access for a few hundred feet or more, enough to cover a small retail location like a bookstore or coffee shop. Users within the wi-fi signal area can log onto the web from a computer, including laptops and PDAs, configured with a wi-fi network card.

Barnes & Noble customers can log on for 2-hour sessions for $3.95, or sign up for an annual SBC FreedomLink membership that provides web access at all FreedomLink wi-fi locations for $19.95 per month.

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