Newspaper discovers moderately happy Wi-Fi user

Sponsors on a Train

The New York Times, in its easily-disposable Circuits section, returns to the wonderful world of Wi-Fi.

With last year's Wi-Fi bubble well and truly popped, reporting about the technology no longer has the gushing tone of a fundamentalist facing up to The Rapture. The wireless technology continues to spread, we're delighted to say, and is becoming a feature on many campuses and work sites, and now Nokia has vowed to build it into several phones in 2005, alongside 2.5G and 3G radio. But the commercial public offerings always looked a risky proposition. Despite enthusiastic early projections, there simply weren't enough webloggers to make the service viable, and Cometa's crash this year - with only 250 of the projected 20,000 hotspots built - was only the latest casualty.

However the Times today draws on its long history of investigative journalism, and has finally discovered a Wi-Fi user! He's a commuter using a trial on the Altamont Express train service in Northern California.

In a report penned by freelance Wi-Fi evangelist and weblogger Glenn Fleishman, we discover that Terry Dickman (for it is he) avoids "sites laden with graphics that are slow to load, concentrating on work involving relatively small text files and e-mail," on balance, his life had "changed for the better". Which is good news for the whole Dickman family.

The Times discloses that the name of this Wi-Fi user was provided by the trial operator, PointShot. It doesn't mention that Intel, who we learn in the article is also Dickman's employer, has spent several hundred million dollars promoting Wi-Fi and invests in the equipment provider for the service, Broadreach.

Now it may be pure coincidence that the only "independent" member of the public the Times could find was an employee of Wi-Fi's biggest promoter. It may be the case that only Intel employees use Wi-Fi, or it may not. We simply don't know. But we do think he could be a teeny bit more enthusiastic about it.

An enlightening report in many ways. Pulitzer Prizes all round! ®

Update: But no Pullitzer prizes for your red-faced vulture. Although Intel Capital invests in the equipment provider for the Altamont service, Broadreach, it doesn't as we first suggested "sponsor" Pointshot, which spoonfed provided the name of the Intel employee to the Times freelancer. For that we must eat humble pie, in the shape of a crow's hat. So it's just a coincidence that the moderately happy civilian quoted happened to work for Intel. One day, we hope, Ronald McDonald himself will appear in one of these stories, and profess himself delighted with the service. We can but dream.

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