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Verizon to install wireless Web for businesses

In a sure sign that the upstart wireless Internet technology called WiFi is proving too powerful to ignore, Verizon Communications said Thursday it will install such networks for small and medium-size businesses.

Because it allows people to share Internet access inexpensively and relatively easily, WiFi is becoming increasingly popular in cafes, airports and hotels. Some stores offer it free for customers as an incentive to sit for hours sipping lattes while surfing the Web.

WiFi has been seen as a threat to big phone companies such as Verizon because the technology allows homegrown networks to spread outside their control.

Verizon already sells WiFi equipment that lets households share a broadband Internet connection.

The company also is looking at ways to offer access in stores and other public places _ so-called wireless "hotspots" _ and charge a fee to people who want to log on from their laptops or handheld computers.