Free Starbucks WiFi Launching Tuesday

As many of you may know, I’m regular Starbucks patron. For me, “working from home” is a euphemism for plopping myself anywhere more comfortable than the soul-sucking florescent glow and countless unproductive meetings housed within the confines of a typical office environment. I’ve been pestering one of my local haunt’s managers for details on when we’d finally see them implement free WiFi via AT&T – both with anticipation and dread. I wouldn’t mind saving the $20/month spent on unlimited T-Mobile HotSpot access (backup for 3G card, especially in United airport terminals), but I wonder how much more crowded the already bursting-at-the-seams coffee shops will become.

Earlier today the aforementioned manager approached me (unsolicited) and said the system was configured a few days ago and they’ve confirmed it works. I saw the back of the store memo and the manager says they’ve got signage behind the counter ready to go in conjunction with the June 3rd launch. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t let me take a peek and snap photos. My “contact” confirmed what tells us:

Complimentary Wi-Fi for Starbucks customers When you register your Starbucks Card and use it at least once a month, you’ll receive two consecutive hours a day of complimentary Wi-Fi, courtesy of AT&T.

I didn’t think to ask if the on again, off again free iPhone WiFi would make a reappearance on Tuesday. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

As to the business rationale, it’s fairly simple – Internet is inexpensive and sales are down:

Starbucks reported that earnings fell 28% in the quarter ended in March. Sales at U.S. cafés open at least a year declined. The shares, at just over $17, are down 57%

Bonus Starbucks Tech: In the last few months, Starbucks (and the Coffee Beanery) has rolled out little spill-prevention sticks, so we won’t make a mess in our cars while transporting coffee beverages.

21 thoughts on “Free Starbucks WiFi Launching Tuesday”

  1. This is great, Dave. I share the need to work remotely, although I often choose Panera or small coffee shops to do my duty.

    Up until now, I’ve been using my Sprint broadband USB connection, which is pretty fast just about anywhere I go. Although, with the soon-to-be-imposed 5GB limit, it’s nice to know I’ll have an opportunity to capitalize on free Wi-Fi at *bux soon.

    That being said, given that I’m also an iPhone owner, it would be really nice to see free AT&T hot spot usage…. for all the money I (over)spend each month on my cell bill…

  2. I dunno, it doesn’t excite me one iota for the AT&T WiFi promo to kick off. Will it really change your St.Arbucks eperience that much?

    You and I are similar in that we have the T-Mo Hotspot (though mine is only$14.95/mo, go figure) and my time there is definitely averages over 2hrs a day. Will it cause me to discontinue my T-Mo? No way — like you mention, it still has use in many airport terminals and Borders too.

    And though there may be some moderate increase in customers staying to surf the web, I would gather that most who are looking for free wifi are already going to Panera Bread or just getting Joe-to-go and heading home.


  3. Free WiFi at Panera _is_ pretty cool — especially in Cupertino where you can get real coffee at Peet’s right next door. Too bad other Peet’s locations don’t have free (or any) WiFi. Maybe some day… :-(

  4. I look forward to leeching internet access via the Starbucks two blocks from my house ( inverting the “work from home” dynamic ). I will also experiment with that share-a-connection-router thing Dave has, and says works really well ( what’s the name of that again? ). Add in Fon and a signal booster! :)

  5. For Sling, I purchased the Cradlepoint MBR1000. I anticipate needing fewer ports at Dash events and will pick up the CTR500 model as a replacement when it’s released in June. I have a Fon router though no one ever shared it as far as I know and my outlets are limited…

  6. Great news. I don’t think Starbucks will become any more or less crowded. They will be stealing business back from Panera Bread though. I know of a few places where panera bread and starbucks are down the street from each other and people choose panera bread just to use the free wifi. So if anything, Panera Bread will become less crowded. Both places at lunch time (in the DC area) have lines out the door, so I don’t think that will change much.

  7. Skeptic, I hear ya… I had to pretty much give up eating (and computing) at the downtown Chevy Chase Panera as it was always so packed. Since moving to suburbia, my new Panera is larger and has less people conducting meetings.

    MHA, the sticks plug the coffee lid opening. Starbucks has been alternating sizes, while the one time I visited Coffee Beanery (Albany airport a few weeks ago) they had the longer sticks (in yellow). Longer ones are probably better – serving dual duty as stirrers. The small ones are branded StixToGo.

  8. Place stick in spout. The first “bulge” fits exactly in the spout hole space. Then you have a little handle on top to pull out or place in.

  9. In the initial phases, the free wifi will be limited to one session per day, not multiple sessions amounting to 2 hours. But, at&t DSL members (if your plan is 1.5 Mbps or higher) will have unlimited access. Before this deal, most at&t free wifi spots were at McDonalds. Hanging out outside Starbucks sounds like more fun.

  10. I tried logging on at my local Starbucks. They have free accees, but so does MacDonalds across the street. MaDonalds signal was far stronger! At Macdonalds, Starbucks signal was not found.

  11. The free WiFi at Starbucks is a great idea for them but they should have thought a bit more about the implementation. Apparrently a large portion of the Starbucks are still using T-Mobiles gear that was installed from their WiFi offering. T-Mobile is now suing Starbucks over this. Basically they just started offering free WiFi using T-Mobiles equipment. Be Interesting to see how that suit turns out.

  12. I know the woman in the above pic!!! I went to high school with her, and as far as I know she’s still an employee of Starbucks. I don’t think she serves coffee, but I think she works in the corporate arena.

  13. People,
    Do not forget to take care of security in your PC. If you are going to use your laptop in Starbucks or any public WiFi place, make sure you have added firewall (lot of security experts will tell you that the Windows* firewall alone will not cut it.) *Windows XP comes with a firewall, you would think Vista does to.

  14. this is a great way to get people going back to Starbucks, ever since gas has been ridiculously high people have been deciding that they rather go to work than buy a cup of coffee (that’s probably a good thing.) I always thought Starbucks was being cheap for not offering free wi-fi.

  15. This sounds great, it certainly can’t cost much for them, but I heard that Starbucks is now switching to AT&T… I suppose that is how they are getting around T-Mobile’s paid system; maybe T-Mobile’s system will have to coexist with AT&T’s until the contract with T-Mobile has ended. As long as the contract doesn’t specify that T-Mobile must be the ONLY wi-fi service that Starbucks offers, then I don’t see how they can be sued over it.

    Andrew’s comment about firewall software is to be taken seriously, I use the free version of ZoneAlarm on my laptop.

  16. I think its great! Panera Bread’s wifi seems to go in and out with my laptop… could just be on my end though. And since I pay for DSL through at&t, i get unlimited access. And in my area, it has brought a significant amount of customers in. But yes, Panera Bread (especially on sundays) is usually full of people with laptops, iphones, and blackberry’s

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