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Internet users logging on with a cup of java

Melinda Hunter
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Vincent Rubino of the Bay Area works on his laptop at Alpen Sierra Coffee, one of several local businesses offering wireless network connections.
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Taking a coffee break and reading the morning paper have taken a tech-savvy turn now that European-inspired Internet cafes and cyber shops are springing up around South Lake Tahoe.

Now residents, traveling business people, or even those on vacation can drop by for a quick cup of Joe while hooking up to the Internet and getting a little business and reading done on the side.

“Offering Internet access is a natural extension of the coffeehouse experience which has always been about keeping people connected to other people and to life,” said Starbucks spokesman Nick Davis. “It’s also about meeting customers’ needs. Before we started offering this service (T-Mobile Hotspot wireless Internet), some customers would ask if they could plug in to the store’s phonejack,” he added.

Starbucks, along with many other local and branch coffee shops, is joining the technology bandwagon by providing bandwith to customers seeking Internet service.

“It’s my job to use the Internet and since I travel a lot, Internet cafes are primarily where I telecommute from,” said Vincent Rubino, a customer at Alpen Sierra Coffee. A Bay Area Web developer, Rubino uses the Internet about 12 hours a day. “(Cyber cafés) are easy to find and very accessible.”

“It’s almost a necessity for most who are on vacation to be connected at all times because of work that has to be done and can’t be put off,” said Dan Wexelblatt, store manager of Tahoe Business and Cyber Center, whose company slogan is “your office away from home.”

The Tahoe Business and Cyber Center, located in the Village Center, has been open since March of this year and has found success because of the working vacationers and traveling business people, Wexelblatt said.

“We want to act as someone’s own personal office when they are away on vacation and their jobs still require them to work,” he said. The Center offers “working vacation” conveniences – fax machines, printers, copiers, and packaging and mailing supplies.

Erin Farmer, an employee of Alpen Sierra Coffee for the past two and a half years, said the Internet access has improved business.

“Since technology is such a big part of everything we do, it makes sense that these Internet cafes and cyber shops are becoming more and more popular and frequented,” Farmer said.

The demand for online access is also changing the way people live their lives and approach work and how separation between home and work, if any, has melting barriers.

“Cell phones, pagers, laptops, Blackberries and the like all make it easy for people to be reached anytime and grant the ability to work anywhere, allowing for no separation between work and home because managers/employers now have the means to reach employees at 11 o’clock at night if need be,” Rubino said.

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