In a few weeks, will remove most of its RAIN (Remote Access Internet Node) terminals from cafes around the city. Speakeasy, an $18 million locally owned Internet provider specializing in DSL, has offered the service since 1996 as a way for Seattleites to access e-mail and the Internet for free.

A few years ago, there were about 16 RAIN terminals in town; now, stations at the Alibi Room in Pike Place Market, the Globe Cafe on Capitol Hill, and Mr. Spots in Ballard will be removed. Four terminals on Broadway East were removed months ago. Not counting Speakeasy's home base on Second Avenue, this leaves just six terminals citywide--a 62 percent drop.

Speakeasy spokesperson Kat Oak cited the costs of maintaining the e-mail terminals (they're made from recycled hardware) and the cafe owners' waning enthusiasm for designating space to the computer stations. "They weren't popular and weren't being used," Oak says. However, she also says that terminals at Sit & Spin downtown and Cafe Allegro in the U-District are more heavily used, and will not be removed for the time being. Speakeasy will maintain terminals at its home cafe on Second Avenue downtown.

Oak says times have changed. "When we first installed the RAIN terminals," she explains, "it cost a couple thousand for an Internet hookup, and people weren't as technically proficient. Now, the cost of hardware is down, it's cheaper to log on from home [or free, from a library], and people are more computer-literate."

What about users who still can't afford a hookup? Brad Lucy, a Globe Cafe employee, says, "Most [customers] are somewhat disappointed that the computers are being taken away, because this was the last place in the neighborhood they could pick up their e-mail."