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Wireless Internet gaining fans in Des Moines


Wireless Internet is growing in popularity in Greater Des Moines as more consumers gain access to it via cell phones, laptops and palmtop computers and as they install it in their homes. Businesses, too, are getting in on the action, using the service as a hook to draw customers in the door.

In the past six months, I-Spot Networks has placed its wireless Internet gear in a dozen locations throughout the metropolitan area, including Sec Taylor Stadium, and Prairie iNet has been installing its equipment in residences.

This summer, national mobile phone operators including Verizon Wireless Inc. and Sprint PCS Group, introduced super-fast wireless Web access to customers. This month, Dynamic Broadband will begin broadcasting wireless Internet signals from an antenna it installed at the top of 801 Grand. Colleges, too, have embraced the technology.

“It’s growing fast and furious,” said Tony Paustian, executive dean of Des Moines Area Community College’s West campus, which has a wireless network. “We’re in a culture today where young people consider computers an appliance, not technology. Someday you’ll be able to be connected wherever you want, whenever you want. The young generation is going to make that a reality.”

Wireless aficionados caution, however, that despite increasing popularity, Des Moines has been a slower than some communities to adopt the technology. There is debate on the reason, with some saying consumers are fearful that the technology could damage their health. Others argue that consumer awareness of wireless services and the capabilities it offers is lacking.

Certainly one of the sticking points with businesses and consumers is the cost, which starts at about $30 monthly for Dynamic Broadband’s service and can climb into the hundreds of dollars for heavy users or for those who want very fast speeds. Some companies, such as I-Spot, offer plans that don’t cost consumers anything, but do require money from the businesses that install the service.

I-Spot has installed wireless access points, or hotspots, in 12 greater Des Moines locations, including Miss Kitty’s Dance Hall & Cyber Saloon, Wellman’s Pub and Valley West Mall’s food court. The first time a consumer uses the Internet at an I-Spot location, he or she has to register. Though it doesn’t cost the user anything, the registration process lets businesses keep track of how many customers use the system, and it lets them earn points that can be traded in for promotional goods and services.

I-Spot charges participating businesses a one-time fee of $799 for equipment, labor and marketing material. For an additional fee, the company will promote the business’s location, or place advertisements on its network.

“It’s all awareness,” said Mark Wheeler, I-Spot’s owner. “A lot of people are not aware that you can get Internet access in public places like stores and restaurants. There’s also a misconception that it costs a lot of money. You can buy an attachment for $40 to make your laptop wireless.” In fact, many new laptops are now built with wireless capability.

As the technology becomes increasingly available on consumer products, including laptops and personal digital assistants, consumers are adding wireless capabilities to their homes.

Just about anyone can make their Internet connection wireless by purchasing a wireless router for less than $100, though upgrading to a cordless system isn’t generally considered worth the expense without high-speed Internet access already being piped into the home or business. Fees for that service start at about $30 a month and can be obtained either via cable television or through telephone lines.

Some businesses have taken that route to offer the service to their patrons. Other hire companies like I-Spot Networks, which will build and maintain the network for them.

Mobile phones, which now offer picture-taking and Web-surfing capabilities, are where the technology is growing the fastest, driven by demand for consumers who want to use new phones to send color pictures and video clips to friends and family members.

Some handsets, too, can be used as a modem for their computer.   With the right service plan, customers of Verizon, for example, can use the Internet anywhere within their coverage area. And the speeds at which they can connect are increasing.

Mobile phones used to have transmission speeds of 14.4 kilobits per second. Now, the phones can handle 40 to 60 Kbps, and some customers have reported speeds of 80 to 100 Kbps in Des Moines, according to Karen M. Smith, a Verizon spokeswoman. Prices for the service range from $35 to $99.99 per month, depending on the plan chosen.

“People have been adopting wireless slowly out of concerns for safety,” said Miriam Ubben, president of Software and Information Technology of Iowa. “I think there are technologies addressing those concerns, however. It is the future. There’s a whole mobility issue, having access to data anywhere, anyplace, any time.”



Miss Kitty’s Dance Hall & Cyber Saloon 8800 Swanson Boulevard


Heartland Inn Des Moines West 11414 Forest Ave

Cub Club Restaurant Sec Taylor Stadium

Iowa Genealogical Society 6000 Douglas Ave.

Java Joes Coffeehouse 214 Fourth St.

Sec Taylor Stadium

State Federal 700 Walnut St.

Wellman’s Pub 2920 Ingersoll Ave.


Autographs Rock & Roll Sports Bar & Grill 100th and Douglas


Computer Renaissance 1821 22nd St.

Doc’s Bar & Grill & Live Jazz Club 1601 60th St.

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery 4508 University Ave.

Valley West Mall 1551 Valley West Drive

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