By RICK HOULE
Tom Stephenson, café manager at Sault Ste. Marie's Hidden Bay Café, has recognized the growing trend in laptop computer use and has added a wireless Internet connection to his establishment.
The technology, Wireless Fidelity or Networking (WiFi) enables patrons to connect to the Internet while visiting the café without the hassle of hardwires.
"It's just an extra service we offer," Stephenson says.
While the Internet café is far from a revolutionary idea, as the service is a common phenomenon in a metropolis like Toronto or Vancouver, it is rare in
smaller cities, according to Stephenson.
The service is offered by the café at no charge and Stephenson notes that the cost to the café is relatively small.
"I started an Internet café in 1996, and back then the cost to offer the service was large," he says. "Things have changed in those eight years. It's almost a free thing now. Everywhere you go, schools, libraries, airports, there is Internet access. The cost is something like $200 to make it available. In other words, it's not a huge cost. It's a beautiful little piece of technology that's very inexpensive."
The Hidden Bay Café is located in the Travelodge Hotel, which itself offers in-room Internet connections.
"Sometimes people might just want to get out of their rooms, or their room is being made up. They can come and check their e-mails or what have you in the café."
Those who do not have the wireless option on their laptop computer or are without a computer all together are not excluded from the service provided. The café has a few conventional wired ports to connect to, as well as a couple of desktop machines that can be used at a reasonable cost.