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Is Free Wi-Fi For Customers Becoming Mandatory For Businesses?

by Sean P. Aune | July 2, 2010July 2, 2010 11:00 am PDT

With the switch being thrown on July 1st at Starbucks corporate stores to give free Wi-Fi to its customers, you almost have to wonder if this going to become an obligation of all service type businesses so that they can make sure to keep their customers.

Over the past few years we have seen free Wi-Fi creeping into all types of businesses, and while it was originally an added perk of your smaller mom & type businesses, it seems that even the big corporations now realize they have to have to win back those customers they’ve lost.  With the likes of Starbucks, McDonalds, Panera Bread and others all bringing Wi-Fi to their locations, are we going to get to a point that all large chains are going to have to do this so that they are all on a level playing field?

starbucks logoWhile free Wi-Fi was once a surprising perk at establishments you frequented, it became a deciding factor now for the increasingly mobile work force in the United States.  With changes in the data plans of companies like AT&T, and rumors of Verizon following suit, people are going to be more prone to want to use free Wi-Fi anytime they are out of the house or office instead of using their limited cellular data.

What’s intriguing to me is that while free Wi-Fi has become ubiquitous in our dining options, it seems to still not be making its way through the entire hotel industry.  There seems to be a direct correlation between the price of the hotel room and whether or not you have to pay for the Internet access.  Oddly it seems to be the cheaper the hotel, the higher the likelihood that the service will be free, while the more expensive the location, the better the odds that they are going to want to charge you $9.95 a day for access.  Why this is, I have no idea, but it definitely seems to be the trend.

As more and more companies give away Wi-Fi access, one has to wonder if we will really need 3G access on our iPads and laptops.  About the only time you could be away from the access is when you are in your car driving between locations, and you shouldn’t be thinking of watching a streaming video on your iPad at a time like that any way.

What say you?  Does access to free Wi-Fi help you make any decisions about the businesses you frequent?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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