Free Citywide Wifi – User Boon or Starbucks Devil?
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The city of Dayton, Ohio, has gone online with city-wide and city-sponsored free wifi. And Dayton is not the first city to do so. In Dayton, anyone within a mile square of the Dayton downtown area can connect to the Internet, completely free, through Dayton’s free wifi program. The program, which the city estimates costs it a measly $5,000 per year, is paid for through advertising. And Cleveland boasts the world’s largest free wifi area (so far) with an astounding 550 acres. (Ohio is obviously progressive when it comes to their Internet access!)

Other cities with free city-wide (or at least zone-wide) wifi access include Hermosa Beach, California, and Seattle, Washington.


But of course, free city-wide access raises some questions. Oh sure, there are the usual questions about security, such as who is responsible if someone hacks into the system – the city? Do you see that happening? And there are the ever-present questions which arise with any free wifi service, such as do you really know how secure it is, and how to avoid wifi evil twins.

But aside from those, what about poor Starbucks? Has anybody stopped to think about what this is going to do to Starbucks’ business model, and joint project with T-Mobile?

T-Mobile charges Starbucks (and now Borders, as well) patrons $29.99 a month for unlimited use of their in-Starbucks wifi hotspots. If you don’t like that plan, you can use their $10.00 per day plan. Or their $3.00 per hour plan, which pretty much let’s you synch your wifi consumption and expenditures with your latte consumption and expenditures.

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Their business model is obvious – Starbucks is everywhere, making it very easy for the road warrior, or even just the tar traveller, to find an Internet connection wherever they go. Stop by just about any Starbucks and you’ll see table-squatters hunched over all available tables, busily typing away on their hotspot connected laptops.

What if they no longer had to pay T-Mobile/Starbucks for that connection?

By recent count, Starbucks has about eight locations just in the greater Dayton area alone. That’s 8x$ where $ is the amount they are making on their collaboration with T-Mobile for the in-Starbucks hotspots. Multiply that by however many gazillions of Starbucks there are in the United States alone, and you can see that the prospect of ubiquitous city-wide wifi could quickly cost Starbucks a fortune.

 

That doesn’t even take into account the money they poured into their marketing and advertising for the T-Mobile Hotspot deal.

So, before you jump on the free city-wide wifi bandwagon, take a moment to stop and think about poor Starbucks, and what would happen if nobody paid to use their T-Mobile Hotspots.

Because Lord help the Starbucks stockholder if their bottom line has to rely on sales of that dreck they call “coffee”.

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The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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6 thoughts on “Free Citywide Wifi – User Boon or Starbucks Devil?
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  1. Wifi Dayton- does anyone know what happened to City’s plans to expand the wifi serive past the one mile limit?

  2. I’ve talked to a couple of district managers for Starbucks, both of whom concurred T-Mobile was one of the worst deals their company ever got into. If these DM’s had their druthers, they’d offer free wifi. Cincinnati Bell modeled a similar wifi service after T-Mobile, and it too has been a miserable failure. I doubt Starbuck’s is hurt so much as T-Mobile. Fwiw.

  3. I think it’s wonderful that Dayton is offering this for free. I realize we often stereotype municipalities and governments, but this is an incredibly cutting edge concept that just might push the “for profit” providers to finally start offering a good service at a fair price. Competition is usually a very good thing! Go Dayton!!!

  4. Ohio’s lucky.In neighboring PA the legislature, bought and paid for by the telecommunication industry,passed legislation only allowing “free” wifi in Phildelphia.

  5. I’m worried sick about Starbucks. No, wait, I got sick at Starbucks. That ‘dreck’ made me sick.
    I live near Dayton, although I’m writing this from DC. Here in DC there are way too many Starbucks. Come to think of it, there are way too many Starbucks everywhere, so the city-wide wi-fi is natures way of balancing the industry.

  6. Worry about Starbucks? Give me a break. Should we also ban cell phones because we’re worried about pay phone companies and long distance carriers?

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