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Starbucks announces wireless Internet access in stores
August 22, 2002 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Starbucks announces wireless Internet access in stores and plans to charge customers for it: $29.99/month for access in one store, or $49.99/month for access in all equipped stores nationwide. Seems a little pricey to me. And besides, don't cool coffeehouses offer free wireless Internet access? They're sure getting lots of coverage of the announcement in any case.
posted by tippiedog (21 comments total)

 
Yup, waaay too expensive. The only way I could see this flying is for them to leverage the sheer numbers of Starbucks stores in larger metropolitan areas. If they used technology like this which could saturate wireless coverage around the city, I might sign on for 80% metro area coverage for $30 a month until the 3G networks arrive. I don't associate my wireless needs with a latte.
posted by machaus at 8:07 AM on August 22, 2002


So, let me see if I understand this... now instead of just paying $4.00 for a cup of coffee, people will have to pay $30.00 for the priviledge of sitting in a Starbucks?
posted by bondcliff at 8:11 AM on August 22, 2002


I tried the $20/120 minutes trial to see what this was all about recently. We don't have many Wi-Fi antennas in my area, so this is the only real option (aside from working at home 100% of the time). The good part is that you don't have to sit *in* Starbucks -- you can just sit anywhere in range. For me, that meant sitting outside on the pedestrian mall enjoying the sunshine.

But as I used the service, I soon realized what a rip-off the price truly is -- sure, you get 120 minutes, but there is a 10-minute minimum usage. Hop online quickly to check mail? That 1-minute of use equals 10 and your account is deducted accordingly. Twelve uses and I was out of minutes.

Then I checked into their "unlimited" plans and realized that, although they have a 500MB/month transfer ceiling (sound pretty high), your sessions are rounded up to the nearest Megabyte. So check a few e-mails totaling 100k, and you're hit for 1MB of usage. You most likely won't hit the 500MB ceiling, but the fact that you have to bother thinking about it at all is enough to solidify my decision: This service is not worth it.
posted by jacobris at 8:24 AM on August 22, 2002


Why would it NOT be pricey? This is Starbucks, home of the cup of coffee for the price of your first born child. You can get a used car for less than a couple of cups of coffee around that place. Hell, at the rate they sell their coffee at, I'd say this is down-right affordable!
posted by bradth27 at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2002


I pay less than that for my shaw.ca broadband at home and it is unlimited amount of time and bandwidth. They are out of their mind. Charging me $4 for a cup of coffee isn't enough?
posted by Coop at 9:47 AM on August 22, 2002


It's been running in pre-launch mode in a number of locations already. Low quality service, constant drops, where I've used it.
posted by MattD at 9:59 AM on August 22, 2002


Mitch Wagner had an offputting experience using a coffeehouse Wi-Fi, although he had a different attitude about it than I would. See also.

And if anyone wants to run with it, this entry might make a good front page post, in the vein of recent pulp and weird writer threads.
posted by dhartung at 10:26 AM on August 22, 2002


at least in the bay area, there are plenty of wireless companies offering cheap access in coffee shops. i pay $100/year for unlimited access at any of the cafes that the company i use is deployed at. (and i don't bother paying for any access to my house.)
posted by badstone at 11:03 AM on August 22, 2002


er - access at my house. access to my house came with my lease.
posted by badstone at 11:04 AM on August 22, 2002


I don't have a link, but here in Oregon, there's a big Portland controversy involving this. Seems that a nonprofit group that's trying to blanket the city in Free Wi-Fi had a channel set up in Pioneer Square, and the new Starbucks is using the same frequency. I'm on the way out the door, but I'm sure somewhat could find a link - neither side will budge at the moment.
posted by Kevs at 11:53 AM on August 22, 2002


The Oregonian has a good article about it, which was picked up by various wireless blogs including this one dedicated to news about 802.11 , aka Wi Fi (scroll down to 8/19 for the mention, but see also lots of good follow-on stories). Go to Nigel Ballard's website and scroll down to see the KGW television interview. Nigel is a wireless consultant, and also spokesperson for Portland's wireless user group Personal Telco, which installed the free Pioneer Courthouse Square node early this year.
posted by qrs136 at 12:33 PM on August 22, 2002


Free is the way to go. The Trident Bookstore/Cafe in Boston offers free wireless. It comes from the largesse of a plan to make Newbury Street totally covered by wireless signal.
posted by jeremias at 12:45 PM on August 22, 2002


A question about free: won't somebody be paying for it? If all coffeeshops etc. are expected to have free internet access, won't they just pass along the price in the coffee?

(Mind you, individuals/nonprofits/municipalities providing wireless in public areas is a different and in my view excellent thing -- I'm just saying if we want our coffee shops to provide it, it would do well to remember that they're businesses, and everything they provide will be factored into the retail price of the thing they sell. Which isn't to justify the insane and dopey Starbucks asking price for this service -- I just note that somebody will pay for it, and if I don't use it I'd prefer that it not be another reason for them to raise the price of a latte.)
posted by BT at 1:36 PM on August 22, 2002


There seems to be a meme about $4 coffee at Starbucks. Here in LA, a cup of coffee at Starbucks is $1.35, which isn't sound that unreasonable, really. $4 is the price of the extra-large milkshake-like Frappachinos.
posted by 4easypayments at 1:41 PM on August 22, 2002


"... which isn't sound unreasonable..."

And with that, I'm off to get some much needed coffee.
posted by 4easypayments at 1:43 PM on August 22, 2002


I think most self-respecting coffee shops around the uc berkeley campus offer free wi-fi access. I haven't checked since I don't have a notebook, but I was under the impression that this was the case.

Oh, and their coffee is cheaper and better than at starbucks, w00t!
posted by azazello at 3:05 PM on August 22, 2002


at least in the bay area, there are plenty of wireless companies offering cheap access in coffee shops. i pay $100/year for unlimited access at any of the cafes that the company i use is deployed at.

sounds pretty decent, do you have a link to more info?
posted by rorycberger at 3:58 PM on August 22, 2002


I've been using the T-mobile service for a few months at the Starbucks (and airport) in Austin. With about 30 stores around town, that means I'm always near a connection.

And like jacobris said above you don't have to be in the Starbucks to use it. However, I'm not as anti-Starbucks as many others here. For $1.70 i can get a venti drip coffee that delivers 500mg of high quality Columbian caffeine. And you can get free refills in the store.

Sure the $30/mth may seem expensive for broadband internet when you're used to getting it for free, but someone is paying for the bandwidth. All of the Starbucks are have a T-1 and so the connection is blazing fast. I think if the independent-corporate-coffee-sucks cafes do not see coffee sales go up they might dump the internet connection (or if they are using DSL/Cable for their store's connection the ISP may charge them for sharing).

sidenote: Starbucks is getting the best of this deal. HP and T-Mobile are paying for the bandwidth and WAP setup. Starbucks gets access to the bandwidth to connect the stores together with a T1 so they can conduct business over the wire. And the customers get broadband and might frequent the store more often.
posted by birdherder at 4:48 PM on August 22, 2002


Starbucks thinks they own one of the (only) eleven channels of 802.11 access. Regular techie people don't.

I wouldn't buy their internet because they aren't playing fair.
posted by shepd at 5:19 PM on August 22, 2002


Update: T-Mobile in Portland has moved their service to channel 11.

And, to correct the munged up links above:
Nigel Ballard
Personal Telco
posted by qrs136 at 5:49 PM on August 22, 2002


Thanks for the update qrs136. I'm glad t-mobile blinked. There is no reason in the world t-mobile would have not to switch channels.

Now if I can only get my neighbor to change channels. I was here first! Channel 6 is mine mine mine!
posted by birdherder at 6:11 PM on August 22, 2002


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