The free Wi-Fi hot spots may have benefited more than the fee spots during Intel’s free Wi-Fi day: Nigel Ballard reports that the Starbucks in downtown Portland had 40 unique logins while Portland's free Personal Telco hot spot downtown had 176 unique logins. He also says that everyone in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, where Intel put on its event for the day, was an Intel employee. They apparently were bussed in from the Intel factory to make the event look crowded.
Portland's free wireless group wasn't the only one to benefit from Intel's unwired day. In Austin, a couple of free Wi-Fi groups got together to put out a press release noting that every day is a free W-Fi day in quite a lot of locations.
"We sent [the release] as far as San Antonio, but it seems the whole country has picked it up," said Rich MacKinnon of the Austin Wireless City Project and the founder of Less Networks. He has seen the press release listed on some of the large stock market sites under Intel news.
MacKinnon thinks that most people will choose to use free hot spots when they're available. But travelers might use the fee spots mostly because they might have an easier time finding them. In an unfamiliar city a traveler might find it easier to locate the nearest Starbucks than a local independent cafe with Wi-Fi.
But locals in towns like Austin will likely long be attracted to the free sites, not only because they're free but because they're usually operated by independent shops. "We love our independently owned businesses. We resent it any time a Hard Rock Cafe or something like it opens," MacKinnon said. "We'd rather see Wi-Fi pop up in these small places."