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When Kirk Watson dreams, he thinks of Flushing, the Internet and high-speed connections that exist without really being connected to anything.
The 30-year-old Jamaican immigrant and Flushing resident imagines local residents being able to sit in the Queens Botanical Garden or a restaurant on Union Street with a computer on their lap, surfing the Internet.
People should basically be able to go anywhere and still have access to information, said Watson. Thats my vision.
Last week Watson opened up Cyber Oasis Wireless at 35-38 Union St. The business is designed to allow Flushing residents and employees to access the Internet on their computers without having to hook a computer up to a land-based line.
Cyber Oasis operates using wireless fidelity technology. Watson sells WiFi cards, which cost about $80 for laptops and $135 for desktops, that communicate with a 20-foot antenna that sits atop the roof of his business. Cyber Oasis acts as a hotspot, sending signals back and forth from the Internet to computers using the card.
The cards range is limited to about a five-block radius, Watson estimated. For Queens residents wanting to wander outside of the immediate area, Watson sells a booster antenna, weighing about 4 ounces and about 8 inches in length, which can communicate with a hotspot five miles away and costs about $80.
While Queens residents have already begun investing in wireless Internet technology in their homes, Watson said he is the first person to send out a wireless Internet signal to the general public in the borough.
Wireless technology has become popular in the last few years in California and is now beginning to come to the Northeast. For example, anyone with a WiFi card in his laptop can access the Internet while sitting in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, Watson said.
The technology is similar to the type used in cell phones, which also function using signals from antennae, but his equipment works faster than wireless Web browsers that are now on newer phones. As a matter of fact, Watsons low-grade equipment slightly exceeds the connection speed of land-based DSL lines. A more advanced piece, which will be available later down the road, operates at speeds six times faster than DSL.
Watson predicted Americans would be able to access the Internet using wireless technology from most parts of the country within five years.
He is currently offering his signal free of charge to promote his new business. He plans to start charging $39 a month for the signal in about a year.
Watsons target audience is businessmen and women working in and visiting downtown Flushing.
One of my goals is to establish a relationship with hotels, Watson said, which would allow business travelers to get online while far from their home or work service providers.
Watson also plans to secure three laptops that use wireless technology for stands that will sit on corners in downtown Flushing. Anyone walking by could log onto the Internet at the computers, which he plans to attach to telephone poles
Investing money that he has saved over the years, Watson said he was taken a chance with his new business.
Its a really risky venture, Watson said. But if its not risky, theres no reward.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2002 Community Newspaper Group
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