Starbucks to serve up free Wi-Fi at 6,700 stores

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How about this for a Starbucks order: venti cappuccino with soy milk, two squirts of vanilla syrup -- and a side of free Internet.
Starting July 1, Starbucks will offer free wireless Internet at all of its 6,700 company-operated locations in the U.S., Chief Executive Howard Schultz announced Monday. As now, the service will be offered through AT&T, but will no longer require a Starbucks loyalty card, which entitled registered customers to two free hours.

Besides its company-owned locations, Starbucks has about 4,300 franchise stores in the U.S. that will not offer the promotion.


Schultz said that all company-operated U.S. stores will also receive a new online customer experience -- dubbed Starbucks Digital Network -- later this fall. The network, in partnership with Yahoo, promises unique content such as unrestricted access to paid websites and services such as the Wall Street Journal’s subscription-only content, free downloads, local news and exclusive previews.

During WIRED’s Business Conference Disruptive by Design in New York, Schultz talked about the challenges he’s faced since returning as CEO in 2008. Schultz said the decision to offer free Wi-Fi came as part of a plan to “embrace social and digital media,’ according to a statement on the company’s website.

Starbucks’ move also follows McDonald’s decision six months ago to offer free Wi-Fi at 11,500 U.S. locations. The article noted the two companies have been at odds ever since McDonald’s recently launched its successful, and less expensive, McCafe line of coffee beverages.

-- Kristena Hansen