Starbucks will offer free and unrestricted Internet access over Wi-Fi in its stores, starting July 1st. By Fall 2010, Starbucks also plans to give Internet users in its stores free access to paid sites, including the Wall Street Journal.
Starbucks’ Howard Schultz announced the new plan at Wired’s Business Conference in New York today. Currently, you can connect to AT&T WiFi in Starbucks stores, free for two hours if you have a $5 Starbucks card. And if you are an AT&T customer, you get free connectivity anytime. Now it’s free for everyone.
Schultz plans a new online customer experience called the Starbucks Digital Network, in partnership with Yahoo!, this fall. This online experience – available only in U.S. company-operated Starbucks stores – will allow customers free unrestricted access to various paid sites and services such as wsj.com, exclusive content and previews, free downloads, local community news and activities, on their laptops, tablets or smart phones.
Laptop users be able to connect without hauling out their credit cards or handing over personal information, and be able to see additional in-store content created by a partnership between Starbucks and Yahoo called Digital Ventures, a new business unit within Starbucks. Launch content providers will include, among others, iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! and ZAGAT. C/Net has a conversation with Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz.
Free Wi-Fi is now the norm.
- Barnes & Noble, the largest book chain in the United States, provides free WiFi for patrons, in a deal with AT&T. Barnes & Noble’s agreement with AT&T provides free Wi-Fi to all its customers because the company hopes to bring more customers into the store, and expand its current e-book catalog of 700,000 titles.
- Borders, the second-largest bookstore chain in the United States (after Barnes & Noble), will provide free wireless Internet access in about 500 of its U.S. stores.
- McDonalds now offers free wireless Internet access at its U.S. restaurants, lifting a $2.95 fee that it had charged customers for two hours of wireless Internet access. It’s available at about 11,000 of its 14,000 domestic locations.
- All U.S. company-operated Starbucks hot spots previously supported AT&T Wi-Fi service. A $5 or more Starbucks Card, would get you two consecutive hours of complimentary AT&T Wi-Fi daily. Now it’s all free.
- Verizon is partnering with Boingo to deliver free WiFi access. Free Verizon Wi-Fi hot spot locations include hotels, airports, restaurants, coffee shops, retailers, convention centers and public locations across the U.S. Boingo’s network of Wi-Fi hotspots – which includes more than 100,000 locations around the world – IF you’re a Verizon FiOS or DSL broadband subscriber.
- Qwest Communications began offering its high-speed Internet customers free unlimited WiFi at McDonald’s, Starbucks and Barnes and Noble bookstores.
- Google provided free Wi-Fi at airports, through January 15, 2010. It was working with airports across the country as well as Boingo Wireless, Advanced Wireless Group, Airport Marketing Income and others to provide the service. Currently the free deal includes 47 airports. Google is also providing free WiFi on every Virgin America flight during the holiday season.
- Satellite broadband provider Row 44 and mobile media company JiWire teamed up to deliver free in-flight Wi-Fi supported by advertising.
Perhaps additional revenue from Apple’s iAds will offset the loss from subscription revenue. Interestingly, Google was not mentioned as a partner in the Starbucks announcement.