KIOSKS LET YOU SURF INTERNET COMPUTER DEVICE HEADS FOR MALLS, AIRPORTS (Florida Today; 12/12/98)
If Sandra Rosenglick and Joe McKelvey have their way, you won't be able to shop, cash a check or take a plane without having access to the Internet. And with their startup company, the two are betting you'll pay for the privilege. In October, Rosenglick and McKelvey began peddling Internet kiosks - mobile, 5-foot-by-2-foot devices loaded with computer equipment allowing users access to the Internet and a host of other computer functions. The word mobile is emphasized because the machines can be put anywhere . . . airports, shopping malls, hotels, banks and grocery stores. With Internet use rising exponentially, Rosenglick expects business to boom. "More people are using the Internet everyday," she said. "When people are on the run they want a convenient way to keep in touch with the office, family or to get work done." The concept isn't new. Dozens of mom-and-pop companies like Public Internet Kiosk Systems in Allentown, Pa., have been in the business for years. The industry is growing so rapidly - Europe is the biggest market for the kiosks, experts say - even software giant Microsoft is considering a partnership with Kinko's to market Internet kiosks. The units typically have 15- to 17-inch computer screens and are equipped with printers, fax and e-mail capabilities. Of course, they offer Internet access. Some units are equipped with telephones and tiny cameras for videoconferencing. Users pay $10 or more an hour to use the units and advertisers pay hundreds of dollars a month to display ads. NetTrek initially is following a successful formula: placing the kiosks in airports, catering directly to business travelers. After receiving a $130,000 Small Business Administration loan, the company began buying the $8,500 kiosks in October and, so far, has placed them in six airports: Melbourne International, Tampa International, Sanford-Orlando International, West Palm Beach International, North Carolina's Wilmington International and Columbus Metro in Georgia. A contract has been signed for Fort Smith Regional in Arkansas. Melbourne airport got a kiosk two weeks ago and will split the profit with NetTrek. "We wanted to give something additional to travelers while they wait for their planes on layovers," said Jim Johnson, Melbourne airport director. "We are hopeful it'll earn enough for them to keep it here, but we don't expect it to earn a lot for us to begin with." Rosenglick said she hopes to persuade as many as 200 airports and retail outlets to sign on in the next six months. "The airports have been very receptive," McKelvey said. "They have round-the- clock foot traffic and a lot of the general public doesn't have computers or access to the Internet. This product will appeal to a broad range of people." By cash through a dollar bill acceptor or by a credit card, users pay $12 to $15 an hour to access the Internet, read e-mails, send faxes and print documents. Software is installed to block access to pornographic Web sites. The bulk of revenue is expected to come from advertising, Rosenglick said. Rosenglick hopes advertisers will pay up to $175 a month to run computerized ads on the kiosks. Each ad will appear on the screen for 10 to 15 seconds and can be seen by users and passers-by 24 hours a day. For $500 a month, advertisers can run a 30-second video ad on the kiosk. A maximum of 30 rotating ads and 10 video ads can run on a kiosk, McKelvey said. Local businesses - restaurants, hotels, rental car companies - can also pay $25 a month to put hyperlinks to their Web sites on the terminals to draw travelers. At those rates, each kiosk can generate $12,500 a month, or $150,000 a year. NetTrek has not signed any advertisers, though they say they are in discussions with several. Use of the kiosks has been spotty at best, averaging 1 to 3 hours daily per unit. "We're not making any money from this yet. We just started," McKelvey said. Some think the price is too high for the idea to take off. "I never seem to see anybody using them when I travel," said John Trudeau, co-owner of Merritt Island's PalmNet Online, an Internet service provider. "I know the logic is `You're in the airport, so you immediately pay more for everything.' But price is going to end up being a factor." QUOTELINE: "More people are using the Internet everyday," she said. "When people are on the run they want a convenient way to keep in touch with the office, family or to get work done." - Sandra Rosenglick NetTrek Multimedia
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