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