Irene Forces Laptop Users To Find WiFi Outlets


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In addition to the frustration of food spoiling in refrigerators and darkened homes, the loss of the Internet is heightening the anxieties of power-less utility customers. In some towns, free WiFi coffee shops have become a hot spot for the disconnected.


On the East Coast, millions of homes and businesses are unable to get online in the wake of Hurricane Irene. And for many people, being without the Internet is turning out to being harder than being without lights or a working refrigerator.

Craig LeMoult from member station WSHU in Connecticut reports that people in affected areas are heading out of their homes in search of free Wi-Fi.

CRAIG LEMOULT: Lucy Hinkley is perched on a stool at the Las Vitas Lounge, a coffee shop in downtown Fairfield, staring intently at her laptop. She likes it here.

Ms. LUCY HINKLEY: But I must say my office chair is better for my back.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEMOULT: She lost power at her home office over the weekend and couldn't go without Internet for another day.

Abby Angelou(ph) needed an entertainment fix.

So what are you watching?

Ms. ABBY ANGELOU: "One Tree Hill," one of my favorite shows.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEMOULT: More than half the state lost power during the storm. The shop's owner, Andrew Vitas, says they've done about twice the business as a usual weekday.

Mr. ANDREW VITAS (Owner, Las Vitas Lounge): And for a little coffee shop, that's huge.

LEMOULT: And in addition to the boost in sales, he says there's another upside.

Mr. VITAS: Of course, we still have the computers with each person, but you know, to encourage people to sit at one table who don't know each other and possibly could get to know each other, that's really kind of a nice thought.

For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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