San Fran has most hotspots

The San Francisco Bay area is the nation’s top market for wireless Internet hot spots, according to a new study sponsored by Intel Corp.

The region was followed by Orange County, Calif., Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas. Last year’s “most unwired” area, Portland, Ore., was bumped to No. 5 on the list compiled for the semiconductor giant by “Best Places” author Bert Sperling.

Intel, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing its Centrino mobile chip sets, sees the growing popularity of Wi-Fi wireless Internet service as a big driver of microprocessors, particularly those used in laptop and handheld computers.

Wi-Fi is no longer limited to airports, coffee houses and home networks. Hot spots are springing up in tourist spots, truck stops, RV parks and shopping malls. Intel’s survey did not say what percentage of the hot spots were paid versus free.