IRVING, Texas -- Things are looking up for business road warriors and leisure travelers who want to surf the World Wide Web or zap e-mails to colleagues while they are away from their offices and homes. Travelers at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport today become the first airport customers in the nation to be offered Internet access from public kiosks, or "cyberbooths," being installed by GTE, the first major telecommunications company to offer such a service.
The pyramid-shaped, seven-foot tall, four-sided kiosks, feature one sit-down and one stand-up Internet access terminal, plus two stations for telephone service using Nortel's Millennium intelligent pay phone terminals.
GTE plans to install as many as 10 kiosks, designed by San Diego-based Atcom/Info, throughout DFW Airport, starting today. The kiosks will be located in American Airlines' terminal 2E and 3E, Delta's terminal 4E, and terminal 2W that serves United, USAir, Continental and other airlines. Through September, Internet access and e-mail services will be provided at no cost to the public via GTE Internet Solutions, the company's nationwide Internet access service launched in July.
The kiosks, which will offer easy-to-follow on-screen usage instructions,are open to the general public. With just two clicks of the unit's computer mouse, users will be able to access the Internet or send e-mail messages, said Tom Hall, vice president-general manager of online services for GTE.
Hall said the kiosks will help business and leisure travelers stay productive by being able to access the Internet while waiting for flights, and by using the Millennium phones to make telephone calls or send files by connecting their laptop computer to the Millennium's dataport.
"The business day does not stop when you leave for the airport. With the Internet kiosks, we hope to encourage a greater appreciation for, and greater use of, the Internet," said Hall. "GTE wants to make it easier and more convenient for people to use the Internet, and installing kiosks at the second busiest airport in the world will help achieve that goal."
GTE, which began offering nationwide Internet access in 46 states in July, will offer access to the Internet from the kiosks via an Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) connection that enables users to work on the Internet at speeds 10 times faster than today's most commonly used 28.8 kbps computer modems.
"Comparing the speed of ISDN to traditional modems is like comparing the flight speed of commercial airplanes to paper airplanes," said Chris Westfall, GTE product manager, who said the company seeks to place more Internet kiosks in other high-traffic locations such as shopping malls, colleges and hotels.
Atcom/Info has been testing the kiosks at the San Diego Convention Center. According to Atcom, the average user spends 11 minutes online, with 94 percent of users accessing e-mail accounts, and 51 percent accessing the World Wide Web.
"As a frequent business traveler, I have found it difficult to find a public phone jack in an airport, hotel or convention center, where I can plug in my laptop computer and efficiently get online," said Peter Van Horne, chief technical officer of Atcom/Info, "Once I have found a phone jack, I must then assemble computer components, balance the computer on a pay phone, use a telephone calling card, place the call, reconfigure the system to dial out properly, and so on.
"With the Atcom/Info kiosk, users can access e-mail in 30 seconds. They won't have to carry a laptop or take time finding a way to connect to the Internet," added Van Horne. "While using the kiosk, users will be able to send e-mail messages to conduct business, change flight reservations, check stock quotes, send flowers and surf the Web."
In addition to accessing the World Wide Web and sending or retrieving e-mail through GTE's Internet service, kiosk users will be able to access other online services, view thousands of news groups covering various topics and play a 3-D computerized pinball game.
The kiosks will feature ergonomically designed keyboards, a centrally located touch-pad mouse, Pentium( 133 Mhz processor, 17-inch color screens, and an electronic reader slot that will accept credit card payments for usage after the two-month, free trial period.
The Millennium pay phones, which accept payment via coin, calling card, credit card, smart (embedded microchip) card or cash card, feature a dataport that allow customers to place telephone calls or connect their laptop computers to the phone system.
Editor's Note: Color prints and/or film print transparencies of the public Internet kiosks can be obtained by calling GTE at 214/718-6924.
With revenues of $20 billion in 1995, GTE is one of the largest publicly held telecommunications companies in the world. GTE is also the largest U.S.- based local telephone company and a leading cellular-service provider -- with wireline and wireless operations that form a market area covering about one third of the country's population.
Atcom/Info is the nation's first provider of public communication and information resources for the 21st century. The Internet access kiosks are targeted for high-traffic public facilities throughout the United States, including airports hotels and convention centers. The company is located at 750 B Street, Suite 1930, San Diego, California, 92101. For more information on Atcom/Info please call (619) 685-3168, or visit the company's Web Site.