- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Residents of this technology-focused region will be able to order a Big Mac and wireless Internet access at the same time.

McDonald’s Corp., which has been offering wireless Internet access at 10 restaurants in New York City, expanded the pilot program yesterday to 55 outlets in the San Francisco Bay area. About 20 more will soon follow.

Additional restaurants in New York and Chicago also are slated to become so-called wireless “hot spots” as part of a McDonald’s goal to offer wireless service at several hundred restaurants by year’s end.

“Today’s customer is more time-pressed than ever, and we think it’s important to meet the needs of busy professional and family lifestyles by offering services that are easy to use and relevant,” said Don Thompson, West Division president for McDonald’s. “We want the Golden Arches to be the first choice for a great meal and a place to go wireless.”

Cost for a two-hour wireless connection at Bay Area restaurants will be $4.95. During an introductory promotion through Aug. 12, patrons can get the wireless access free along with the purchase of a Big Mac Extra Value Meal.

The McDonald’s program coincides with the growing trend of wireless computing. The short-range wireless-access technology known as Wi-Fi is increasingly available in coffeehouses, hotels and airports, and is being built into laptops and hand-held computers.

“Right now, the [computing] industry is targeting the business traveler, but to get the market to really grow, you have to pull in the mainstream consumer, and McDonald’s plays really well into that,” said Tim Shelton, an analyst at Allied Business Intelligence.

The firm projects that the number of Wi-Fi “hot spots” in the nation will more than quintuple to 66,300 in 2007, from 12,400 this year.

Wayport Inc., a provider of wireless Internet access in hotels and airports, is providing the service for Bay Area McDonald’s restaurants.

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