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McDonald's adds more Wi-Fi to its menu

The fast-food chain says it plans to sell Internet access inside 100 locations in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas.

Fast-food chain McDonald's said Tuesday that it plans to sell Internet access inside 100 locations in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas.

Sixty of the 100 locations are already online and the balance will be available by September, a McDonald's spokesman said on Tuesday. The fast-food chain sells an hour of wireless access for $4.95, while a continuous 24-hour connection is $7.95.

The Midwest is the last of three areas where the burger giant is tinkering with selling Web access via Wi-Fi, which creates 300-foot-radius areas where laptops can connect to the Internet without wires. The fast-food chain already sells Internet access inside 75 locations in both the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City.

Analysts have been skeptical about the business models behind equipping vast numbers of retail outlets with wireless Internet access in hopes of generating income from bandwidth rental. However, McDonald's views providing Wi-Fi access as a way to sell more meals, not as a way to get into the Internet business.

"Eight percent of people who buy food from McDonald's don't eat it there," said John Marston, vice president at Toshiba. "So their real estate is underutilized."

McDonald's has partnered with three different entities to supply the Wi-Fi equipment, installation know-how and day-to-day operation. In the Midwest, Toshiba is providing the Wi-Fi gear. In New York, it's Cometa Networks. San Francisco Bay Area locations are served by established Wi-Fi provider Wayport.