As promised earlier this month, giant coffee chain Starbucks will be offering free Wi-Fi in its U.S. and Canadian operated stores as a way to bring in customers bearing notebooks, netbooks, mobile devices, smartphones, and WiFi-enabled gaming units. Although Starbucks has offered up to two hours of free Wi-Fi to members of its My Starbucks Reward program—and folks with Wi-Fi benefits via AT&T have been able to tap into the Internet at the coffeehouses—Starbucks is throwing the doors wide open tomorrow. If you have Wi-Fi gear, you can use it at Starbucks, no headache required. Although they hope you’ll buy a snack or a beverage.
“Our customers were asking for a simplified Wi-Fi offering, and free Wi-Fi has been a top request on MyStarbucksIdea.com,” said Starbucks CEO, president, and chairman Howard Schultz, in a statement. “We’re excited to turn this feedback into action and believe our customers will be delighted with the enhanced experience they’ll find in Starbucks stores.”
The free Wi-Fi capability will span nearly 6,800 Starbucks locations in the United States and another 750 in Canada. Starbucks is sticking with AT&T as its backend provider for Wi-Fi and Internet connectivity in the U.S.; Starbucks has been working with AT&T on Wi-Fi offerings since 2008. In Canada Starbucks runs the service in conjunction with Bell Canada, in an arrangement that goes back to 2005.
Later this year, Starbucks also plans to introduce the Starbucks Digital Network, which will operate in U.S. company-owned stores (rather than franchises) and offer free, unlimited access to a set of usually for-pay sites and services and content, as well as local community news and free downloads. Starbucks Digital Network will be a partnership with Yahoo.