Free Grass Roots Wi-Fi: It Works in Portland

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Carol Ellison in MuniWireless writes:

Much is being made this week about Starbucks dumping T-Mobile as its Wi-Fi provider and signing on with AT&T in a deal that will result in limited free Wi-Fi access for its customers.

I’ve seen a few blogs that have gone so far as to declare this traditional hotspot model an innovative substitute that can fill the gap left by EarthLink in the drive to promote city-wide public access Wi-Fi. Let’s just call those folks ’starstruck by Starbucks.’

I’m a huge fan of hotspots. They’ve served me well over the years but, let’s face it, this model is not new, nor is it innovative, nor is it likely to fill any gap other than the one created when T-Mobile was shown the door. It is also not “free” but predicated on purchases.

But Russell Senior (above), the official Secretary of Portland’s Personal Telco replies:

Uh, Starbucks, you may recall, did *not* pioneer using wifi to bring customers in the door.

In our town of Portland Oregon, *free* (to the end-user) wifi in coffee shops, bars and bookstores had become the norm well before Starbucks wandered along with their T-Mobile deal. Because it makes sense.

The ongoing costs of providing free wifi for customers is very low. Local owners immediately recognized the benefits, not only directly to their bottom line due to “butts in chairs”, but indirectly in being friendly to their neighbors and being part of a community and engendering good feeling.

News flash: that’s good for business. It was long before I got involved, but the Personal Telco Project was largely responsible for helping businesses see and do that in Portland.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Friday, February 15th, 2008 at 9:19 am .

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