A home connection

Troops in Iraq receive free Internet access for Independence Day

Two Internet caf's serving about 15,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq are offering free Internet service for the 4th of July holiday, which starts for them at 5 p.m. EDT/2 p.m. PDT.

Arkel International of Baton Rouge, La. ' a logistics, construction and support contractor operating in Iraq ' established the CamoCaf's about a year ago. They have 80 desktop PC kiosks and support wireless access for laptop PCs. Single Digits Inc. of Manchester, N.H., provides infrastructure and technical services.

'We are honored to provide Internet connectivity to foster Web-based communications between our troops and their loved ones half-way around the world,' said Steve Hartsuff, Arkel's vice president of Iraq operations.

Troops can use the connections for videoconferencing, e-mail, Web access or any other Internet service.

Single Digits provides wireless access in the caf's via a 6 megabits/sec satellite link, along with authentication, accounting, remote monitoring, security and around-the-clock support services. The company also designed, configured and supported installation of the equipment. Hardware is from Proxim Wireless Corp., of Milpitas, Calif.

'We get about 2,000 log-ins a day,' said Bob Goldstein, chief executive officer of Single Digits. Most are from privately owned laptop PCs via wireless access, although kiosk use turns over every three or four hours.

The caf's also provide coffee, snacks and other goods. There are two operating now, and several more are under construction.

Fees for Internet use are in the neighborhood of $5 an hour or less than $100 for a monthly subscription. Users can sign up with a credit card and authenticate their identities with a user name and password, or they can pay at the caf' for an access code. For the holiday weekend, the system will switch to a click-to-connect option with no authentication required for signing on.

'We expect it will double the usage for the day,' Goldstein said. Although most troops interested in using the Internet are probably already customers, many of them limit their online hours to save money. With free access, 'we expect some more will come out of the woodwork.'

Goldstein said the access points are capable of supporting thousands of laptop PCs using their own wireless interface cards.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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