For years now, if you wanted to get online at Starbucks you had to pay for it. Makes sense, right? I mean, Wi-Fi doesn't seep out of trees, sonny. Yet the company has now announced that, starting July 1st, you'll be able to use its Wi-Fi for free. Forever. What's the deal?
The deal is that Starbucks is hoping that, instead of working on homework or writing a blog post like this one, you'll give a little more of your time to Starbucks. The company is partnering up with the likes of Yahoo and other websites to provide patrons with "content that you can only get at Starbucks," according to CEO Howard Schulz. Maybe it'll be a lot like the music you can buy at Starbucks, or "music you'll only listen to at Starbucks." That probably means blog posts, branded ads, the aforementioned music and the like.
No matter what's behind it, though, this is still good news for you and me. The real issue here is that for the past few years Wi-Fi has been hard to define for companies. Is it a complimentary service? Is it a premium option? No two businesses treat it the same. In some airports, for example, you'll find that you have to pay to get online. In others, such as Denver International, it's free, though ads will pop-up periodically as you browse as the ad revenue pays for the service. Yet in places such as McDonald's Wi-Fi is straight up free.
Starbucks moving to free could be a sign that, finally, businesses opposed to offering Wi-Fi without dipping into the pockets of consumers are having a hard time justifying that position.
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