For-pay Wi-Fi is played, so played

starbucks Computerworld’s Mile Elgan predicts that within a year, Starbucks will offer free wireless internet access. I advise that if Starbucks does end up doing this, that it not make it seem like it’s the greatest company in the world for doing so. Just quietly roll it out, put up a little sign, and let’s move on.

In my old neighborhood, there was a Starbucks and a Panera Bread at opposite corners of a small shopping square. Panera had free wireless and Starbucks offered T-Mobile for $10 a day. You’d see people in Starbucks chatting and maybe studying or reading the newspaper. Everyone with a laptop, however, was in Panera and there were a LOT of them.

The thing is, free wireless internet doesn’t cost businesses all that much to provide aside from the potential lost revenue. And as a consumer, paying $10 for one-time access to the internet when I pay $50 a month for it at home seems silly. I’ll just plug my hot-ass, trendy Moto Q (the old one) into my laptop and glom off the marginally-slower Sprint network. I’ll pay for Wi-Fi in an airport from time to time, but I expect to get screwed buying anything in an airport. The point is, if there’s a Starbucks and a Barstucks right next to each other, I’ll buy my coffee from whichever place has free wireless access.

I don’t know how it is in your neck of the woods but where I live, just about every small, independently owned coffee shop offers free wireless because they know it attracts customers. If they can offer free internet, so can the big boys.

Prediction: Starbucks Wi-Fi will soon be free [Computerworld]