Starbucks Launches Free + Libre Wifi

I had seen the ecstatic proclamation of free wifi at Starbucks in the US a few weeks ago, but missed the announcement that the deal was coming to Canada on July 1st too.

To be clear, “free wifi” of a sort had been available at Starbucks previously: you had to have a account, and by logging in you could get 2 free hours/day. The new free wifi service is two-click: agree to the terms and click connect. (“Free wifi” versus “free free wifi”? “Free+libre wifi”?)

When you do so, it takes you to what is currently an almost blank version of the Sympatico portal:

I don’t know what the equivalent page looks like in the US, but I’m guessing that it’s more elaborate:

Building on the Wi-Fi update, Schultz also revealed plans for a new online customer experience called the Starbucks Digital Network, in partnership with Yahoo!, which will debut later this fall. This 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.

Driven by Digital Ventures, a new business unit within Starbucks led by CIO and General Manager, Digital Ventures, Stephen Gillett, the Starbucks Digital Network in partnership with Yahoo! opens up a uniquely valuable customer experience, while at the same time appeals to leading online content providers and provides a new channel for customer engagement. Launch content providers will include, among others, iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! and ZAGAT.

I like imagining how deals come together. I’m guessing this one went something like:

  • (Jun 14) Starbucks announces that the free wifi will be even more free at their US stores starting July 1st. Canadian Starbucks fanboys and fangirls are pissed.
  • (Jun 15) Starbucks Corporate hates calling Bell as much as anyone else, but they do it anyway, to see if they can work something out.
  • (Jun 25) Bell says “yes, we can do that, but it’ll cost you”. Starbucks pays Bell.
  • (Jun 30) Starbucks announces that the free-free wifi will be in Canada too — the day before it launches. Bell sets up token Sympatico portal page.

Bell is surely making way more money now than they were under the terms of whatever revshare agreement they had with Starbucks previously.

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