Starbucks has just announced that it's expanding its in-store Wi-fi system, to its maximum limit: From July 1st it'll be free for everyone, with a single click access and no registration process at all. Welcome Starbucks to the Internet Era.
The Starbucks free Wi-fi push got its start in a partnership with Apple. Startbucks iPhone apps allowed you to actually pay for orders from your iPhone screen in over a thousand stores. In February 2008 the generic free Wi-fi was opened to all Starbucks cardholders, with a ceiling of two hours per day.
But today's news is the final stage in giving free Wi-fi. Starbucks made the announcement via a Tweet a few hours ago, and it's great news for the regular visitors to the many thousands of Startbucks coffee stores—7,000-plus, with 4,000+ franchised locations—dotted across the U.S. (International users will no doubt be clamoring for Starbucks to make similar deals with local providers for its stores in their locations, but of course this is a more drawn out process).
The implications of this news are far-reaching. Firstly, its an unmistakeable sign that the Internet has deeply penetrated our society. Starbucks has found the promise of Net access such a draw that it's worth paying for the service in order to get customers through the door in significant numbers. Starbucks is also a found in so many places that this free Net will reach many, many people. Of course, the free Wi-fi will also price many Net cafes out of the business. Starbucks move may also push more businesses to provide free Net, and this actually supports a growing feeling in the public conscious that public Net access should be free.