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Starbucks Offers Free WiFi For Rewards Card Holders

Customers receive free Internet access and coffee discounts in exchange for giving Starbucks detailed data about their purchasing preferences.

Fulfilling an announcement made in February, Starbucks on Tuesday began offering customers two hours per day of complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access at stores across the U.S.

The Wi-Fi service is provided by AT&T and is available to Starbucks customers who don't aren't AT&T subscribers. Previously, Starbucks had a deal with T-Mobile to provide Wi-Fi Internet access for a fee.

To qualify, Starbucks customers must purchase a Starbucks Card worth $5 or more and join the Starbucks Card Rewards program.

Starbucks Card holders get the benefit of complimentary syrup and milk for certain drinks, free refills of hot and cold coffee, and a free "tall" beverage with the purchase of a pound of whole bean coffee.

"The benefit to Starbucks is it's an opportunity to offer our customers something they've been asking us for," said company spokesperson Doug Cavarocchi.

Starbucks meanwhile gets to gather detailed data about its customers' preferences through their Starbucks Card purchases.

Certain AT&T customers, such as those who subscribe to AT&T's three higher-speed residential broadband packages or its small business broadband packages, can also use the Wi-Fi at Starbucks without joining the Starbucks Card Rewards program.

All 7,000 company-owned Starbucks locations in the U.S. are ready to offer Wi-Fi service. Starbucks expects deployment to be complete by the end of 2008.

Since early 2007, Starbucks stock has declined significantly. In April, the company said it expected its fiscal 2008 earnings per share to be lower than the $0.87 EPS reported by the company in fiscal 2007.

Howard Schultz, chairman, president, and CEO of Starbucks, called 2008 "a transitional year for Starbucks" and promised further steps to reinvigorate the brand.

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