Marginalizing Starbucks' Wi-Fi business

by David Spark on April 29, 2007

A while back I wrote a piece for eWEEK about coffeehouses instituting Wi-Fi networks and how some offered the Wi-Fi for free while others, like Starbucks, forced users to cough up $10 a day. The argument for offering free Wi-Fi is it attracts customers. And a packed coffeehouse looks a lot more pleasing to passers by than an empty one. But for coffeehouses in downtown areas with high traffic, it makes sense to charge for usage.

I wrote that article in 2004. Today, with the number of municipal Wi-Fi projects and the proliferation of Wi-Fi in people’s homes you’ll often find a free Wi-Fi network available when you’re sitting in a Starbucks. If that doesn’t work, Fonbucks wants to undercut Starbucks pricing by giving away Wi-Fi routers to anyone who lives near a Starbucks. While the Fonbucks network is not free, it is only $2 a day, severely undercutting Starbucks’ $10 a day service.

We so often hear of cases where big companies like Microsoft or a Google add a new service or application that completely devalues another business. It’s nice to see it for once working the other way around.

Thanks to my friend Bill Biggar of the Post-Postmodernist for the tip on this story.

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