AT&T just can’t commit. To free Wi-Fi for iPhone 3G customers, that is. The company seems to be having a blunder-fest with announcements that iPhone 3G customers can get free Wi-Fi at its nationwide AT&T WiFi HotSpots (most notably in Starbucks stores). The carrier trumpets the free service on its Web site one day, then claims the announcement was a mistake and pulls the link the next day. The culprit? Employee error. I bought an iPhone 3G, and it’s an awesome tool (the App Store is an especially appealing addition). I owned the first version of the device, but now I’m paying AT&T $10 more a month for the data service and $5 per month for previously free text messaging. So I don’t see why AT&T couldn’t throw in free Wi-Fi for my not-too-frequent visits to Starbucks. But, even if it did, I’m not sure that I’d be able to use it. About a month ago, AT&T announced that anyone with an active Starbucks card could take advantage of free Wi-Fi in the store. I dutifully loaded $10 on my card, bought a venti drip, and asked the barista about the service. He acknowledged that it was available in that location. When I cracked open my laptop and tried to join the network, however, it asked me to register the card at Starbucks.com. I did so, but still couldn’t access the network. So I called Starbucks to ask how to log on. The tech rep said that I should be able to access the network after registering my card. Beyond that, he could offer no assistance as to how to join the network. So I finished my coffee—all 20 ounces of it--and left. If AT&T really intends to offer Wi-FI, it needs to commit. And then train its partners.
Until then, I'm drinking my coffee at Joe: The Art of Coffee. They don't have Wi-Fi, but they don't promise it, either.