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.

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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