A New Workforce is Brewing - Page 2

By Daniel Casciato
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Bringing in Business
When Swartz began working out of cafés in Pittsburgh’s swank East End neighborhoods, he was a little paranoid and wondered whether he would be kicked out for being there too long. But he soon realized that café owners use Wi-Fi as an amenity to help bring people in. 

"At first, I thought it was kind of weird to get free electricity and Wi-Fi all day," he said. "But if these places have a big 'Free Wi-Fi' sign outside and have numerous plug points all over the café, they probably want you in there. No one has ever told me that I should probably get moving, and I’m always buying food and drinks from them during the day." 

Taylor said that this arrangement is good for both café owners and bedouins.

"Since I recognize that this is an economic transaction, I buy stuff at their location," said Taylor, who can often be found at Amante, a hip, Italian café in Boulder, Colorado. "I’ll have breakfast at one place and sit there for two hours, and then go somewhere else for lunch. I’m giving them some revenue and I sometimes bring my friends in and also have meetings there."

On the Road Again
Richard Hoy and his wife, Angela, of Maine, don’t have to worry about how much coffee or muffins they have to buy because they truly are bedouins, living nomadically from their RV for a couple months each year. Since 2004, they have been traveling all over the country, taking their print-on-demand business, Booklocker.com, along for the ride.

"Our business is entirely Internet-based," Richard Hoy said. "So, as long as we have a connection, we could run the business."

In 2004, Wi-Fi service penetration into campgrounds reached a level where it was practical for them to plot a cross-country trip. "In addition, T-Mobile began offering flat-rate cellular data service," he said. "It wasn't very fast, maybe the speed of a 9600 baud modem to a 19.2 modem, but it was fast enough to do e-mail. And you could connect while flying down the freeway."

Now, since most campgrounds offer Wi-Fi, the Hoys look for sites that offer good Wi-Fi coverage. If that doesn’t work, they have a few back-up plans.

"You always need a back-up," said Hoy. "We’ve been to places where it’s not always as advertised. The problem with Wi-Fi in any kind of outdoor setting is that there's always signal interference if it has not been professionally installed."

The Hoys have a custom-built bridge/antenna rig that plugs into a wireless router inside their RV. This setup helps pull in weak Wi-Fi signals at campgrounds. About a year ago, they also invested in a satellite Internet setup for RVers from Maxwell Satellite, and later this spring they plan to purchase an iPhone. And if none of their back-up plans work, their last option is checking into a hotel with Wi-Fi capability or looking for nearby cafés.

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This article was originally published on February 27, 2008
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