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Down to the Wire

This story was published July 19, 2005, during an internship at Richmond.com.

WiFi . Launched in 2000, it’s the coolest slang word since “tubular,” a major step in the all-American quest for efficiency and the cause for one man’s recent arrest.

WiFi, which stands for Wireless Fidelity, allows Internet users to access the web from any location, provided that area is linked to the nationwide WiFi network. Wireless networks make it possible for multiple computers under the same roof – in your home or a restaurant – to hook up to the Internet simultaneously, which, if you’re not careful, could include cheap neighbors or sneaky strangers. This past April, Florida resident Benjamin Smith was arrested on charges of unauthorized access to a computer network via WiFi, and he wasn’t even stealing anything. He was just a simple man sitting in his van, “stealing” WiFi outside of someone else’s house. Creepy.

If your WiFi network isn’t adequately shielded through encryption or passwords, anyone with a wireless card can view your personal information, credit card information and even send emails from your account. Though stealing WiFi is a third-degree felony, it is practiced on a regular basis.

Avoid formal charges by taking advantage of the many consumer-friendly restaurants and venues that are hooking up to a wireless network to allow their customers the convenience of the Internet anytime they want. Who wouldn’t want to browse online boutiques while sipping a cup of joe at your favorite coffee shop, or keep track of box scores while enjoying group yoga in the local park?

Once you’ve put in a few passwords and sufficiently protected your computer, take the old laptop into the warm summer air and enjoy some surfing – the water-free (and legal) kind. Here is a list of local areas that offer WiFi access. Café Gutenberg

1700 East Main Street

((804) 497-5000 C3 Creative Change Center

1801 East Cary Street, Third Floor

(804) 474-3639 Monroe Park

Fan District

(804) 254-2928 World Cup

26 North Morris Street

(804) 359-5282 Baja Bean

1520 West Main Street

(804)257-5445 Baker’s Crust

3553 West Cary Street

(804) 213-0800 Mars Bar

115 North 18th Street

(804) 644-MARS McDonald’s (in Carytown)

3410 West Cary Street

(804) 355-4123 Shockoe Espresso and Roastery

104 Shockoe Slip

(804) 648-3734 Stir Crazy Coffee Shop

4015 MacArthur Avenue

(804) 864-0204 Stony Point Fashion Park

9200 Stony Point Parkway

(804) 560-SHOP Panera Bread

4701 Brad McNeer Parkway

11649 Midlothian Turnpike

11703 West Broad Street

9200 Stony Point Parkway

(804) 560-9700 Virginia Commonwealth University

Fan District

(804) 828-0100 University of Richmond

28 Westhampton Way

(804) 289-8000 Starbucks

Any of the 17 Richmond-area locations

(800) 782-7282

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