Starbucks has announced that it will begin offering free Wi-Fi to customers at all locations starting later this summer, as the company responds to rival coffee chains and restaurants that already provide free Internet access.
Starbucks is the most popular U.S. coffee shop chain, with more than 6,700 retail locations nationwide. The free Wi-Fi service will begin on July 1 for all U.S. stores, the company confirmed during the Wired Business Conference.
Starbucks already offered free access to some customers, including Starbucks loyalty card holders and AT&T Apple iPhone and iPod Touch owners.
As part of Starbucks Digital Network, Internet users at Starbucks will have access to free online content to WSJ.com and other popular online portals. Free Internet is a part of the Starbucks Digital Network drive, which is led by relationships between Starbucks and Yahoo, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, and ZAGAT.
The recent announcement by Starbucks is a likely answer to McDonald’s, which announced free Wi-Fi at most of its U.S. restaurants. The Wi-Fi originally cost $2.95 for two hours of service at Mickey D’s, but it’s now free for customers.
I think this is a major victory for laptop and smartphone owners looking to drink a cup of coffee and browse the Internet in as many places as possible. I’ve always preferred picking up a cup of coffee at a local store that offers free Wi-Fi — and am glad to see Starbucks step up to stop charging.
Starbucks will look for methods to boot customers who have lingered too long after making a purchase. Some managers will have employees ask customers to purchase another item, while other locations have blocked access to power plugs.