Starbucks kicks AT&T to the curb and chooses Google to provide free Wi-Fi at its 7,000 U.S. stores; Google promises speeds up to 10 times faster.
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Internet access at coffee shops has become a staple of the mobile professional's life. Starbucks and other companies have stepped up to provide free access to Wi-Fi in their shops. Whether they need a quick pit stop between meetings or a temporary office for half a day, many professionals depend on Wi-Fi at Starbucks to get some work done.
According to Google, that Wi-Fi service is about to get a whole lot faster.
Google will replace AT&T's Wi-Fi network with its own at more than 7,000 Starbucks locations around the U.S., Google announced Wednesday. The process will take about 18 months and will kick off next month. Once the changeover is complete, Google says Starbucks customers should see Wi-Fi speeds that are up to 10 times faster than they are today. In markets that have access to Google fiber, Wi-Fi speeds at Starbucks may be up to 100 times faster.
AT&T has provided Starbucks stores with Wi-Fi for years. Though AT&T's Wi-Fi network is nearly ubiquitous, it is sometimes shaky and unreliable in some locations. AT&T went to great lengths over the year to make sure its smartphone and tablet customers had easy access to that Wi-Fi network. Though it initially required users to have an AT&T smartphone plan to get free access to the Wi-Fi, it eventually opened the service up to everyone.
Reached for comment, AT&T said, "Starbucks continues to be an important customer for us and we continue to provide them with a variety of services over AT&T's advanced networks, including the nation's fastest, most reliable 4G LTE network."
AT&T couldn't say how its own customers will be affected by the change in wireless providers, as it does not know the mechanics behind the agreement between Google and Starbucks. It also had no word on why Starbucks picked Google over AT&T.
"While you'd have to ask Starbucks for any reasoning behind their decision, in our proposal we also offered up to 10 times faster network and Wi-Fi speeds, so the decision must have been based on criteria other than speeds," the company said.
Google recently announced plans to provide free Wi-Fi at a number of San Francisco parks. The Google-provided Wi-Fi at Starbucks will also be free.
"Google has long invested in helping the Internet grow stronger, including projects to make Internet access speedier, more affordable, and more widely available," said the company in a statement. "The free Internet connection at Starbucks has become an important part of many communities over the years, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, or for students without Internet at home who do their homework at Starbucks."
Google did not say which communities will see the changeover first, but it noted that the change in SSID will be obvious to Wi-Fi seekers once its Wi-Fi is available in a given Starbucks shop.
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