Starting July 1st, Starbucks will finally begin to offer free and unrestricted Internet access over Wi-Fi in its stores. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made this announced at Wired’s Disruptive by Design conference today. With this, Starbucks finally joins the ranks of neighborhood coffee stores all over the world that have long offered free and easy access to Wi-Fi. By Fall 2010, Starbucks also plans to give Internet users in its stores free access to paid sites, including the Wall Street Journal.
Until now, Starbucks customers were restricted to two hours of Wi-Fi access and needed to register for a Starbucks Card in order to access the Internet. Starbucks already offered free Wi-Fi access to AT&T customers.
Free Access to Paid Content
The free access to paid content sites, however, is the big news here. According to Starbucks, this new service, called the “Starbucks Digital Network,” will give users who surf the Internet from U.S. company owned stores access to “various paid sites and services such as wsj.com, exclusive content and previews, free downloads, local community news and activities, on their laptops, tablets or smart phones.” Besides the Wall Street Journal, Starbucks’ partners include Apple’s iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA TODAY, Yahoo and ZAGAT.
While Starbucks did not release details about these partnerships, it is easy to image that in-store Wi-Fi users could, for example, get free access to specific songs on iTunes and be allowed to bypass the New York Times’ upcoming paywall restrictions.