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Finding a local Wi-Fi hot spot

Wi-Fi access to the Internet may be easy to use, but first you have to find it.

"The good news is that it's wireless," said C. Brian Grimm, communications director for the Wi-Fi Alliance, a consortium of tech companies that work on technical standards. "The bad news is you can't see wireless. Some (places) haven't put up signage."

People seeking wireless Internet access need to check the Web to find hot spots. Even then Web sites don't always agree on where access is available. Most offer searches by city, state and country.

The first stop should be the Web site of the Wi-Fi service a user subscribes to. At Boingo (www.boingo.com), click on Locations and you get a list of states, then cities.

Checking Clearwater brought 14 hits, only four of which were actually in North Pinellas. The four accurate listings included a Mailboxes Etc., the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort, Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, and Ramada Inn Gulfview. The other 10 sites under "Clearwater" were located in Tampa, Brandon and Wesley Chapel.

At T-Mobile (www.t-mobile.com/hotspot), click on See Locations, then a state on a U.S. map. More than 100 Starbucks are listed in Florida, including 18 in the bay area.

Wayport (www.wayport.com) lists 47 Florida hot spots, including seven in the bay area.

Then there are general Wi-Fi directories, such as the Wi-Fi Alliance Web site (www.wi-fizone.org), HotSpotList.com, Hotspot Locations (www.hotspot-locations.com/), Wi-Fi Free Spot (www.wififreespot.com/) and WiFinder (www.wifinder.com/).

That's where it can get confusing. The Wi-Fi Alliance, for example, lists four sites in Clearwater. There are two each for subscribers to the Wayport and SurfandSip Wi-Fi services, but none for Boingo or T-Mobile. The site lists eight hot spots in Tampa and none in St. Petersburg.

The HotSpotList has almost 140 Florida locations, including 14 in the bay area. That site counts a hot spot more than once if it has more than one service. For example, the Wyndham Hotel Westshore in Tampa is listed separately for Wayport and Boingo.

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