Barnes & Noble to offer free Wi-Fi

Others stores require a carrier contract or other relationship

Barnes & Noble Inc. took free Wi-Fi a step further this week by announcing that anybody can walk into one of its nearly 800 stores nationwide and surf the Net free for an unlimited time.

The bookseller paired the offer with its recent news of making 700,000 e-book titles available, including half a million that are in the public domain from Google Inc.

Barnes & Noble has been using AT&T Wi-Fi services since 2005, but charged a fee until now, according to an AT&T spokeswoman. AT&T wired broadband customers and some AT&T wireless customers also had free access at the bookstores.

Verizon announced earlier this week that many of its wired broadband customers on home-based DSL and FiOS services will have thousands of free Wi-Fi hotspots to use nationwide. Verizon is using access points from Boingo Wireless.

AT&T noted that it has maintained more than 20,000 hotspots nationwide since last year, handling nearly 15 million connections in the second quarter for a total of 25 million for the first half of the year. Half of the second-quarter connections were from smartphones, including the iPhone, AT&T said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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