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Drivers cruise the Web on I-35
(Des Moines Register; 07/12/98)

By WILLIAM PETROSKI

     Register Staff Writer

     Northwood, Ia. - Need to check your e-mail on the trip between Des Moines 
 and Minneapolis?

     Want to learn about an art museum or a top-notch restaurant down the road?

     At the Iowa Department of Transportation's new rest area just south of the 
 Iowa/Minnesota border, the information superhighway has intersected with 
 Interstate Highway 35 .

     Along with regular pay telephones, an Internet kiosk has been installed 
 inside the Top of Iowa Welcome Center and rest area that is about 20 miles 
 north of the Mason City/Clear Lake area. Choicetel Communications of Plymouth, 
 Minn., installed the Internet hookup at the rest stop.

     Motorists can get on-line access using either their own laptop computer or 
 a desktop computer in the center.

     Michael Reier, Choicetel's regional account manager, said more travelers 
 are using the Internet kiosk than he had expected. He said he doesn't have 
 exact figures, but computer records show frequent use for both e-mail 
 connections and Web surfing for topics such as weather reports, tourist 
 attractions and airline information.

     The service costs 20 cents a minute and users can pay with either cash or 
 credit cards.

     It's the first time Internet service has been available at any state rest 
 area in Iowa.

     "You would be surprised at all the young people who are using it, and how 
 the business travelers are using it to check their e-mail," said Jean Stowell, 
 the welcome center manager. "Even the people who don't use it are making very 
 positive comments." The welcome center and state rest area both opened in June 
 in a newly built, bright red barn, representing a traditional part of Iowa. But 
 with the Internet link, the facility also represents Iowa's future, Stowell 
 said.

     The Iowa Department of Transportation has no plans to install similar 
 Internet hookups in any of its other 39 highway rest stops, said Will 
 Zitterich, the DOT's director of maintenance services. However, the agency 
 wants to keep an open mind to emerging technology to better serve travelers, he 
 added. There are at least one or two truck stops in Iowa, including the Pilot 
 Travel Center in Urbandale, that also offer Internet access.


     Reporter William Petroski can be reached at (515) 284-8547 or 
 petroskiw@news.dmreg.com

     Steven Schear,16, of Waverly checks out an Internet kiosk at a rest area on 
 Interstate 35.






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