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SAN ANTONIO-In November, San Antonio’s North Star Mall patrons will be able to get “connected” for free to the Information Highway under a long-term pact signed between BigFatWow Inc. and RREEF, the mall owners.

The Irving, TX-based operation has sealed deals to provide high-speed Internet kiosks at five RREEF-owned malls. The other kiosks, which will come on line by years end or early 2001, will be set up at Countryside Mall in Clearwater, FL, Great Northern Mall in North Olmstead, OH, Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights, MI and Maplewood Mall in Maplewood, MN.

The RREEF deal is just the latest in a string of agreements with malls nationwide. A BigFatWow spokeswoman has confirmed Dallas’ prestigious Galleria, owned by Hines Interests, will see the opening of the state’s first two kiosks in December. BigFatWow presently has agreements in place at 62 malls nationwide, primarily in the Northeast.

BigFatWow’s rollout plan calls for more than 600 Wow Centers in high-traffic shopping malls and other public areas. The firm’s first 25 kiosks will soon be on line in such major markets as Palisades Center near New York City, Gurnee Mills near Chicago, Washington, DC, Paradise Valley in Phoenix and FlatIron Crossing in Denver as well as malls in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Philadelphia. In addition to RREEF, BigFatWowhas signed deals with mall owners such as Westcor Partners, The Pyramid Cos. and the Mills Corp.

A typical kiosk boasts a modular design ranging in size from 135 sf to 270 sf and contains four to 12 computer stations with T-1 connections. Consumers “click” to brick-and-mortar promotions of retailers and strategic partners, access the Internet and send and receive e-mails from kiosk computers. The Wow Centers will serve as a destination for “Inter-tainment”–Internet, information and entertainment–for mall shoppers. The kiosks feature 42-inch flat-panel plasma screens, 17-inch computer monitors and 27-inch HDTV television screens and are staffed with trained personnel. Programming includes in-mall promotions that offer a new medium to retailers as well as Internet access. The hookups are outfitted with secure connections between each site and the Dallas office, blocking the access of objectionable material and barring unauthorized users from gaining access outside the mall site.

“At RREEF, we’re dedicated to building loyalty among our shoppers and supporting the sales and marketing efforts of our retailers,” says Dave Brown, RREEF’s specialty leasing director. “The Wow Centers will provide free Internet access in an exciting environment for shoppers and give advertisers a unique way to promote themselves via TV monitors, plasma screens and online.”

BigFatWow says the free access is available because it generates revenue from consulting services, in-mall retail advertisements and product sales of strategic partners.

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