Starbucks announces free Wi-Fi

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- Starbucks Corp. today announced that it's dumping longtime partner T-Mobile and switching to AT&T. Best of all, the company said Wi-Fi will now be free for Starbucks card-holders in many stores for the first two hours per day (as I predicted).

I wrote back in October that "Starbucks will start rolling out free Wi-Fi access within one year." The reason: Five years after announcing for-pay Wi-Fi, "the model appears old and stale and ready for a complete overhaul."

Starbucks plans to offer the new AT&T service initially at 7,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S. It's available to Starbucks debit card users and Starbucks partners only.

Non-cardholding customers can pay $3.99 for two hours -- which, of course, will incent customers to get the debit card. Monthly membership will cost $19.99 per month, and will enable access to AT&T's 70,000 hot spots in 89 countries.

The company also announced that more than 12 million "qualifying AT&T broadband and AT&T U-verse Internet customers" would get unlimited free Wi-Fi at Starbucks.

The service starts in spring.

Here's the rest of the story.

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