Starbucks to Offer Refuge to Those Left Internet-less By ATT, Sprint Data Limits

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Starbucks will offer free unlimited WiFi access, starting July 1 at all of its U.S. company-owed stores. Starbucks move follows actions by mobile carriers including AT&T and Sprint to end the unlimited data ride.

Even as AT&T and Sprint and maybe others batten down the hatches on unlimited data use by subscribers, Starbucks is opening the doors to free WiFi – a refuge for those left Internet-less by ever stricter carrier data policies.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced that free, one-click WiFi would arrive on July 1 to all U.S. company operated stores. The service is provided, ironically, through AT&T.

In addition, Schultz said that Starbucks would introduce a  new online customer experience called the Starbucks Digital Network, in partnership with Yahoo, and making its debut in fall 2010. Available only in U.S. company-operated Starbucks stores, the Starbucks Digital Network  will give customers "free unrestricted access to various paid sites and services such as wsj.com, exclusive content and previews, and free downloads, among other services."

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Launch content providers will include iTunes, the New York Times, USA Today and ZAGAT.

The initiative will be driven by Digital Ventures, a new business unit headed up by Starbucks CIO Stephen Gillett.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com