Starbucks: Free Wi-Fi at 6,700 US sites
By Ashley M. Heher, AP Retail Writer | June 14, 2010
CHICAGO --Starbucks Corp. will begin offering unlimited free wireless Internet access at all company-operated U.S. locations starting July1, part of an ongoing effort to bring more customers in the door.
The Wi-Fi access, which will eventually include a new network of news and entertainment content exclusively for customers, comes as Starbucks works to take business back from rivals like McDonald's Corp. and independent cafes that have long offered free Internet.
The cafe chain, which recorded its first quarterly increase in customers in 13 quarters earlier this year, had previously offered two free hours of Web access each day to registered customers.
On average, laptop users spend about an hour using the wireless Internet in Starbucks stores while mobile phone users who can use Wi-Fi spend about 15 minutes on the network.
After the two-hour window, consumers at the Seattle chain were charged $3.99 for two additional hours.
Officials said Monday that access will continue to be offered through AT&T. But it won't require a Starbucks loyalty card, according to the announcement Monday by CEO Howard Schultz, who spoke at a conference in New York.