Palo Alto plane crash creates Wi-Fi thirst (podcast)

After a small plane crash brings down power in Palo Alto, Calif., refugees seeking Wi-Fi flow into cafes and coffee shops in neighboring Mountain View.

The crash of a small plane in East Palo Alto, Calif., brought down lines that supply power to much of Palo Alto, which is home to Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, and this reporter.

Knowing that Google provides free Wi-Fi to most of nearby Mountain View, I grabbed my laptop and headed for the Mountain View Starbucks nearest to Palo Alto, but it was standing room only thanks to other Palo Alto refugees in search of Wi-Fi and coffee. My next stop was LeBloulanger, a cafe and bakery near the center of town. The Google signal is weak, but the cafe offers its own free Wi-Fi service along with a few open electrical outlets.

Palo Alto resident Seth Stabinksy works at a Mountain View cafe Larry Magid (via iPhone)

It turned out that I wasn't the only Palo Alto refugee to set up camp at the cafe. Seth Stabinsky, a Palo Alto-based medical device consultant was there with his ThinkPad and iPhone to conduct business as usual while he too waits for crews to restore power to Palo Alto. "I got online on my iPhone and looked up free Wi-Fi and went for Mountain View because I knew that power was out in Palo Alto and then saw that Google powers the town and that there was probably an opportunity to find something here," said Stabinsky.

Also at the cafe was Seth Dickson, whose home is one block from crash site. "Debris was scattered all along our yard and on the driveway," he told me. "I heard an extremely loud engine, it sounded like a drag racer was right outside. All of a sudden I saw a huge flash and I thought it was an earthquake. The earth shook."

Listen to Seth Dickson describe crash scene and Seth Stabinsky on why he went to Mountain View in search of free Wi-Fi and power.

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About the author

Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safety advocate. He's been writing and speaking about Internet safety since he wrote Internet safety guide "Child Safety on the Information Highway" in 1994. He is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, founder of SafeKids.com and SafeTeens.com, and a board member of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Larry's technology analysis and commentary can be heard on CBS News and CBS affiliates, and read on CBSNews.com. He also writes a personal-tech column for the San Jose Mercury News. You can e-mail Larry.

 

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