A Look Behind Wi-FiRates.com

Chris Barry, the principal at CNY Ventures in Syracuse, N.Y., left his job a couple of years ago to become a full-time stay-at-home dad. With his child now ready for daycare, he wanted to find a business opportunity that would fill his time and keep him interested. When he read an article a few months ago about Wi-Fi and then tried to find a single site devoted to pricing for public access hotspots, the idea presented itself.

“I have a keen interest in Internet research in general,” says Barry. “When I saw this void I got more and more interested.”

He decided that his new company’s first venture would be a comprehensive list of all the pricing plans available from hotspot providers in the world, made freely available to the public.

He’s separated the launch of Wi-FiRates.com into three phases, which harkens back to the heady 1990s days of the Internet boom. The first was data collection and site creation, which is complete, but, he adds, “is always an ongoing process.” The second will be generating traffic. Third will be generating revenue. Unlike a lot of the dot-bombs, as a one-man company (with some help from his wife), Barry’s not going to hurt anyone if he doesn’t succeed. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, his site might help some hotspot customers save money.

Barry gathered all the pricing data on the site himself, using Web sites and calling the providers to find the rates; in some cases he actually had to go through the motions of signing up for service to obtain the information. He’s currently got about 100 providers listed from the United States and the United Kingdom, and figures to add 250 more from Asia, Australia, and other areas.

“This is an unbiased site — I just want to state the facts of what the rates are,” says Barry. “That makes it easier on my end. Find the info, display. I let the users make their decisions.

The site is currently just static HTML pages that Barry edits by hand, but he hopes down the road, with enough success, he’ll move to a dynamic database he can keep up to date. As for making money, that remains to be seen. Barry hopes he’ll not only sell advertising (he already features a promotions box on the site) but also become an affiliate to providers that get a sale through a link on his site.

Eventually, he plans a new but related project: a site listing the rates and services for venue owners who want to work with certain hotspot network providers. Some providers charge for equipment, while others offer incentives for things that bring customers to the network. Barry would like to spell that out for the venues that haven’t yet signed on to any one provider. He points to Truckstop.net, which will be doing hotspots at highway travel plazas, as an example.

“They not only provide free equipment but also free broadband connections. That’s amazing,” says Barry. That’s something the provider doesn’t tell venue owners up front, which could lead to extra sign-ups.

For now, the Wi-FiRates.com site will take most of his time as he keeps up with new providers and updating the ever changing prices of the currently listed hotspots. For providers who have updates or aren’t listed, contact Barry at [email protected].

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