Starbucks to offer free WiFi starting July 1

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has announced that as of July 1, Starbucks will offer free Wi-Fi to all customers of its company-operated stores in the United States. This now makes the coffee titan one of America's biggest free internet access providers, too.

Starbucks has dabbled with a variety of Web access methods. It currently grants two hours of free AT&T access to customers who purchase something with its loyalty card. In the past, it has also capitalized on partnerships with providers, and levied fees of about $4 for two hours. It's not yet clear if there will be a time limit to the new, fee-free structure.

The opening of the free floodgates will precede the fall launch of something called the Starbucks Digital Network. According to a company release, "the online experience -- available only in U.S. company operated Starbucks stores -- will be unique in its content offerings, allowing customers free unrestricted access to various paid sites and services such as, exclusive content and previews, free downloads, local community news and activities, on their laptops, tablets or smart phones."

This new move, done in a partnership with Yahoo, may guarantee more traffic in its roughly 6,700 company-operated locations nationwide. Given the higher unemployment rate, and the fact so many more Americans are freelancing, it may also mean that you may never find a free table at Starbucks again.

The Starbucks page on in-store internet access, which has yet to be updated with Schultz' WiFi promise, can be found here.

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