Mike Elgan: Free Wi-Fi trickling down to iPhones
Apple iPhone users have discovered free Wi-Fi access at Starbucks and other AT&T hotspots. [read more]
Computerworld - Only hours after posting information that indicated iPhone owners would receive free access to AT&T's public wireless hot spots, the company pulled all references to the service from its Web site.
By 5 p.m. EDT Thursday, the page dedicated to AT&T's subscriber plans for Apple's iPhone had been stripped of all mention of Wi-Fi hot spot access.
Earlier in the day, the AT&T site noted that "access to AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots" was included in all iPhone subscriber plans, with additional details that spelled out the extent of that access. "Unlimited Data (e-mail and Web), 200 SMS text messages and access to AT&T's more than 17,000 Wi-Fi hot spots, including Starbucks* all for use in the U.S. *Wi-Fi available at U.S. company operated Starbucks locations equipped with a hot spot [emphasis added]."
Hours later, all of that Wi-Fi info had been scrubbed from the site.
An AT&T customer service representative was unable to explain the change during a 15-minute telephone conversation, during which he repeatedly left the line to query his manager.
The removal of references to free Wi-Fi is sure to confuse iPhone users and potential customers even more. On May 1, iPhone users discovered that they could use AT&T's wireless access points in Starbucks coffee shops and other locations, including some Barnes & Noble bookstores, by entering their iPhone telephone number.
Within 24 hours, however, AT&T had turned off the free access; users reported that they were being asked to enter a username and password to access hot spots they had used for free the day before.
Earlier today, AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel issued a blanket "no comment" when asked about the Wi-Fi information on his company's iPhone page.
As Apple's exclusive network partner in the U.S., AT&T handles all iPhone accounts and shares subscriber revenues with the computer and consumer electronics maker.
Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.