Free Wi-Fi With That Latte?

Talk about value-added service! A new plan to offer free Wi-Fi to Starbucks customers has proven so popular that the coffee-makers' Web site has been overwhelmed.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm no great fan of Starbucks' brew, which I think is often overpriced and overbrewed. But I have to admit. the retailer has hit on something by teaming with service provider AT&T. Starbucks is providing complimentary Wi-Fi  service two hours daily to customers who register their Starbucks card and purchase something with it monthly. According to a report carried by IDG News Service, there's been so much demand for the free Wi-Fi that the company's Web site was overwhelmed.

This illustrates that there's plenty of interest in Wi-Fi service when it is bundled with other offers and winds up being "free" to the customer. The concept of free Wi-Fi has suffered a few hits lately with service provider EarthLink pulling out of the municipal Wi-Fi market and a few cities like Philadelphia, San Franciso, Tempe, Ariz. and others backing out of their original plans to provide free (or greatly discounted) Wi-Fi service to the masses. Maybe what's needed is a new era of partnership (especially at airports) that brings the price down when a customer transaction is involved.

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