By The Associated Press
CHICAGO – Starbucks Corp. will begin offering unlimited free wireless Internet access at all company-operated U.S. locations starting July 1, part of an ongoing effort to bring more customers in the door.
The Wi-Fi access, which will eventually include a new network of news and entertainment content exclusively for customers, comes as Starbucks works to take business back from rivals like McDonald’s Corp. and independent cafes that have long offered free Internet.
The cafe chain, which recorded its first quarterly increase in customers in 13 quarters earlier this year, had previously offered two free hours of Web access each day to registered customers.
Officials said Monday that access will continue to be offered through AT&T. But it won’t require a Starbucks loyalty card, according to the announcement Monday by CEO Howard Schultz, who spoke at a conference in New York.
Also Monday, Starbucks said customers will get free access to certain online content through its Wi-Fi this fall. Called the Starbucks Digital Network, the program is a partnership with Yahoo that will give Starbucks Web surfers free access to paid sites like the Wall Street Journal, along with exclusive content and free downloads from other organizations such as Apple Inc.’s iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA Today and Zagat.