The New Hot Spot

By Hannah Wallace July 31, 2004

Imagine sitting in Five Points Park across from Selby Library, laptop open, a latte in one hand, while checking e-mail, balancing your online bank account or researching flights for a weekend in Manhattan -all for free. Sarasota County and Startup Florida, a Sarasota company that helps start-ups, say the gratis hot spot is coming.

The idea to create Wi-Fi access-a locale with a wireless Internet connection-came out of Sarasota County's technology cluster, says Dan Miller, a managing director of Startup Florida and a co-chair of the cluster with county information officer Robert Hanson. For Miller, free Wi-Fi makes economic development sense since it attracts creative types and technology startups.

For Hanson, Wi-Fi benefits are more immediate: Hot spots throughout the county are a cost-efficient way to keep building inspectors, emergency workers and utility workers in the field rather than traveling to a central location to receive assignments and enter data.

What's even more exciting: It's free. Most providers charge a fee to use their Wi-Fi service. (Users must have a built-in wireless card in their laptops or install an external card to search for hot spots. Once the user double clicks on a hot spot, he usually pays a fee to the provider, from a few dollars a day to monthly and annual subscriber charges.)

So far, the county has spent $15,000 installing access points at Selby Library, and they're up and running. Access extends to Patrick's restaurant, a block away. While the equipment works, only beta testers are using it right now. The next step is to decide how to offer it to the public with the county as a provider. Miller says he'd like to see Wi-Fi all the way down Main Street.

Will it stay free? That remains to be seen. Hanson says Wi-Fi in and around county libraries will most likely stay free, but expanding beyond those areas will cost. 

For-Fee Hot Spots in Sarasota-Manateeo 


Encore RV Resort Sarasota North, 800 Kay Road NE, Bradenton--no fee information available

Holiday Inn Express 648 East 67th Circle, Bradenton--$6.95 per day

Kinko's 4401 14th St. W., Bradenton--$9.99 a day

Starbucks, 1401 Cortez Road, Bradenton--$9.99 a day

Twin Dolphin Marina, 1000 First Ave. W., Bradenton--no information available 


Harborage Marina at Bayboro, 1110 South Third St., Palmetto--no information available

Regatta Pointe Marina, 1005 Riverside Drive, Palmetto--no information available 


Starbucks Midtown Plaza, 1375 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota--$9.99 per day

Kinko's Phillippi Creek, 1901 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota--no information available

Starbucks, 3571 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota--$9.99 per day

*Information from

Filed under
Show Comments