Starbucks Offers Free Wi-Fi to All Customers

Published July 6, 2010

In what is being heralded as a savvy business move by opponents of government-provided Internet services, Seattle-based coffee franchise giant Starbucks has begun offering free wi-fi for its customers. After July 1, all customers, not just those registering their Starbucks cards, will be allowed unlimited consecutive wireless hours per day.
NetChoice policy counsel Braden Cox applauded the move: “The Starbucks example is just one of many instances where access to the Internet is integrating with business models in ways that show they know we are customers. Interestingly, much like Starbucks has commodified coffee into an everyday thing we don’t think about any more, it might be doing the same thing with Internet access,” Cox said. “There’s a Starbucks at every corner, and that lessens the need for government to be involved in local wi-fi.”
In the past every Starbucks’ customer was allowed two free hours of wireless Internet access, but only AT&T DSL and wireless service customers had access to unlimited Starbucks service. Two additional hours for non-AT&T customers could be purchased for $3.99.
A password and username will no longer be required, and Zagat, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications have banded together to provide news bundles for Starbucks wi-fi users.
Government Not Involved
Zatz Not Funny! (ZNF) editor Dave Zatz says the free wi-fi is a tremendous asset for both Starbucks and the public, noting he had already spent $727.21 this year on Starbucks internet access by June 13.
However, Zatz worries the free Internet access could change the Starbucks atmosphere he loves.
“I assume Starbucks’ goal is to increase store traffic and thus revenue, something their shareholders will certainly appreciate,” he wrote on his Web site. “However, as a regular I’m a concerned with what could happen to the Starbucks atmosphere. The obvious comparison is Panera, an establishment I no longer patronize on a regular basis. Their overrun environment is more akin to a computer lab or Kinkos than a bakery-cafe these days.”
Pennsylvania-based newspaper editor Doug Filarski, a frequent Starbucks’ visitor, sees the move as a positive one.
“Yes, there are a lot of areas in which government does not need to get involved,” he said. “Providing wireless Internet is one of them. The private sector is proving perfectly capable of providing affordable, now often free, Internet service. Government funds are not needed.”
Krystle Russin ([email protected]) writes from Texas.