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As a well-conceived change, Starbucks will make WiFi freely available at its stores in the U.S. beginning July 1, 2010. This is a good move, even as someone who doesn’t usually spend too long leeching of the free Internet while I drink some coffee or tea. The biggest headache when using WiFi at a hotspot is the login process. Passwords, clickthroughs, etc. make it such a hassle to get connected that once you do you’ve probably finished your drink and are ready to leave anyway.
Starbucks isn’t about to be outdone though. Coming in the fall they are partnering with Yahoo! to provide free access to newspapers online, some free songs from iTunes and more!
Starbucks has taken a lot of hits over the years from Dunkin Donuts to McDonald’s about “snobby coffee” and being “pretentious.” Heck, I own a t-shirt that mocks the Starbucks logo with the words FiveBucks Coffee. Adding truly free WiFi is easier for the stores to manage, easier for the customers to use and helps to make Starbucks the friendly, neighborhood handout. Even if you are just running through to pick up a drink this new WiFi access will let you hop on, look up what you need and walk out in record time. A lot of places could learn from this policy.