If you're looking for some free Wi-Fi with your cup of coffee, Starbucks will soon be your place.
According to the company's announcement, it will start offering free, unlimited one-click Wi-Fi through AT&T at all of its U.S. company-owned stores beginning July 1st.
I'm definitely happy to hear that Starbucks is going to be offering free Wi-Fi, but at the same time I'm concerned at how overcrowded a Starbucks will soon become. Today it's hard enough to get a seat in one, and the only saving grace was that after two hours, people would be forced to pay or move on. Now they can technically sit there all day with their laptops.
This is a drastic change from the company's current offering of two free hours before being charged. I can only assume that the change to free Wi-Fi is in response to its competitors, including McDonalds, offering up fancy coffees these days, along with free Wi-Fi.
I read a study a while back that showed that free Wi-Fi does in fact cause people to purchase more coffee. It's either because they're feeling guilty about sitting for so long and not purchasing something, or that they're actually thirsty. Regardless, if people buy more because of the free Wi-Fi, then this is a great move for Starbucks from a corporate-side, too.
Another interesting piece that came out of the press release is the announcement of the Starbucks Digital Network. This is going to be live in the Fall and will offer up unique content offerings from launch partners including Yahoo!, iTunes, The New York Times, USA TODAY, and The Wall Street Journal, just to name a few.
So, not only will you get free Wi-Fi, but you'll also be able to enjoy free access to some sites that normally charge for access. Now it will be interesting to see if other coffee chains follow Starbucks' example. With AT&T and others now removing the all-you-can-eat plans, perhaps more users will duck into a Starbucks for their data needs, especially in NYC.