As municipalities, utility companies and even Google duke it out over the infrastructure, ownership and other workings of a long-dreamed-of ubiquitous Wi-Fi cloud, AT&T last week announced its own plans to extend the reach of being connected by an order of magnitudes.
AT&T will team up with Starbucks to offer “hot spots” at all 7,000 of its domestic US stores beginning this spring and rolling out until the end of the year. Starbucks has had a six year program, now ending, with T-Mobile whereby customers paid $6 per hour, $9.99 per day or up to $39.99 per month for access to their in-store wireless connection. AT&T’s deal trumps that by a huge margin. Current AT&T broadband customers will have unlimited free access under the new deal, plus any Starbucks customer who uses a Starbucks card for purchases will automatically receive 2 hours of free access per day.
AT&T has had a “hot spot” program in place for a while that includes most McDonald’s, Barnes & Noble and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations, however this latest deal with Starbucks is a breakthrough not only because of the sheer number of locations but also because Starbucks is seen as a center of community in many neighborhoods.
We all know how hard it can be to find access while out and about, many times coming up short. Now, access is as close as the nearest Starbucks and that can be pretty, pretty close, to paraphrase Larry David. As the married couple in Christopher Guest’s Best In Show describes their first encounter, “We met at Starbucks…not the same Starbucks, but two Starbucks across the street from each other. I saw her in the window…”