In one of the largest projects of its kind, Knoxville, Tenn.-based IdleAire Technologies, a maker of in-cab gadgets for trucks, is installing Wi-Fi hot spots in 200 truck stops in 35 states, the company announced Tuesday.
The IdleAire plan is a sign of just how pervasiveis in the United States. Millions of homes and offices with broadband connections already use the networking equipment, which creates 300-foot zones in which laptops can wirelessly connect to the Web or to an office network.
Operators of offices, restaurants,cafes, independent coffeehouses, delis, bookstores, airport lounges and train terminals have also installed pay-as-you-surf Wi-Fi networks, hoping to lure new customers or make new profits from veteran users.
Truck stops are no longer sparsely outfitted lots where truckers get gas and a few hours of rest before moving on. Aside from staples like electrical hook-ups and air conditioning, truck stops are also providing television, movies and long-distance phone calling, all paid for with the swipe of a credit card. The IdleAire plan adds Web access to the mix.
"They can stop at the nearest interstate exit," said David Everhart, IdleAire senior vice president. "They won't have to find a coffee shop, an airport or a hotel."
A second factor pushing more technology into truck stops is new legislation requiring truckers to rest eight hours after driving for 10 hours straight. It's created a miniboom for movies and entertainment, or a broadband connection to catch up on inventory or other record keeping.
IdleAire said in a statement that it will charge truckers $1.25 per hour, $3 per day or $25 a month for unlimited use of these wireless networks. The company has also signed agreements that will let subscribers to nationwide Wi-Fi network operatorsand use the same networks.