Evanston retailers offer wireless Internet services

Paul Thissen

Students might study in coffee shops to get away from campus, but now it could be harder to get away from one of the greatest distractions of college life — the Internet.

Wireless Internet (WiFi) is an emerging tren and is becoming available at a number of Evanston cafes, restaurants and other locations.

“I feel like it’s just the same as when I’m in the dorm,” said Communication sophomore Elsa Guerena.

Cafe Mozart, 600 Davis St., and the Unicorn Cafe, 1723 Sherman Ave., both added wireless capabilities in the past six months. Employees at each noted increased business since installing wireless service.

“People like that it’s free,” Cafe Mozart employee Carol Angelopoulos said. “They buy a cup of coffee then sit there all day.”

Some students take wireless availability into consideration when considering where to study.

“I came (to Panera Bread) and not Unicorn because I thought I could use wireless,” Weinberg sophomore Noora Lori said while sitting in the bakery at 1700 Sherman Ave.

A lack of information prevents some students from making use of WiFi, however. Lori was unable to make her computer connect the network at Panera .

Also, some students said wireless hotspots are poorly publicized.

“There’s no way of knowing where there’s wireless,” Education sophomore Mariola Janik said.

Others said they were less concerned about the availability of Internet access when choosing somewhere to work.

“I don’t use it because I don’t want to pay for it,” Weinberg senior Zoe Mentel said as she worked on her laptop in the Unicorn Cafe. “Proximity to my apartment is why I come here.”

Mentel said she does use WiFi in the library, though. Free wireless also is available at many campus locations, including University Library, Norris University Center and many dining halls.

Despite the availability of free services, Kellogg School of Management student Michael Abdou said he had just discovered Unicorn’s wireless service and would use it more in the future despite the charge.

“I wish they didn’t charge for it,” Abdou said. “Other places don’t.”

Wireless Internet technology is designed around the 802.11b standard, a set of specifications adopted in 1999 for data transmission in the 2.4Ghz range, the same range used by many cordless phones.

These networks yield about the same performance as the ethernet connection in NU’s dorms.

Service for each network is available for about 200 to 300 feet from its base station, with speed decreasing as these range limits are approached.

Because many laptops now include wireless cards, more commercial wireless services are beginning to be offered.

Telecom giants T-Mobile and Verizon, as well as a smaller company, Boingo Wireless, all boast thousands of wireless hotspots; by paying a monthly fee of $20 to $40, customers are permitted to use any of these locations for an unlimited amount of time.

These services usually permit people to purchase time in smaller increments at steeper rates. Starbucks, 1726 Sherman Ave., and Borders, 1700 Maple Ave., are both T-Mobile locations; neither Boingo nor Verizon has a location in Evanston.

Wireless services at Greek restaurant Golden Olympic, 1608 Chicago Ave., and the Unicorn Cafe are both operated by much smaller such networks.

A company called Facefive provides wireless for the Unicorn Cafe as well as six other locations in the Chicago area. Time can be purchased by the hour, day or month and is useable at any of the seven locations.

Chicago-based Wavespotz, a small Wireless Internet service established in 2002, provides wireless for Golden Olympic. The company has three other locations, all in the greater Chicago area.