As of July 1, 2010, Starbucks began offering free WiFi at all of its U.S. locations. While free WiFi at coffee shops is not uncommon here, Starbucks has been holding out on offering it for quite a while. As someone who has spent a lot of time (and money) working from cafes, it seemed that they were missing a big opportunity by requiring paid access to internet. Maybe they wanted to preserve the café setting as a place to quietly read the newspaper or catch up with a friend. Or, maybe they thought the money they’d take in from WiFi access payments would outweigh the potential revenue from customers who chose to go elsewhere to access the internet. Who knows?
What we do know is that Starbucks are full of laptop-toting customers now. And, for good reason. According to ReadWriteWeb, not only is the coffee giant offering free WiFi, they’re also offering access to otherwise paywall-protected content: Wall Street Journal, iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA Today, Yahoo, and ZAGAT.
So, could they end up in the best business position in the end? Probably. But we could all end up with the spillover benefits as well: as twitter user @sfslim comments, “given @Starbucks ubiquity, this may be the closest we get to nationwide municipal Internet access for years.”