Just in time for the Independence Day holiday weekend Starbucks is now offering free, unlimited Wi-Fi access at nearly 7,000 company-operated locations across the United States. The policy change came into effect Thursday, a little more than two years after Starbucks began offering two hours of free Wi-Fi to Starbucks card holders. Now, however, the time limits are gone, and you can enjoy unlimited free Wi-Fi at your local Starbucks any time you like for as long as you like.
But before you sink into one of those plush Starbucks chairs with your laptop and a venti nonfat, no-foam, double-shot, extra-hot lattè, here are a few tips on what to watch out for and what to look forward to with free Wi-Fi from Starbucks.
Starbucks is offering free Wi-Fi at all of its company-operated locations, which means most of the Starbucks locations you visit on a daily basis will have free Wi-Fi. The exceptions will be the stores inside special locations such as airports, Target stores, and Barnes & Noble locations. Free Wi-Fi access at these locations may vary. Use the Starbucks Store Locator to find the closest shop near you.
How to get online
Before you get started, make sure you are connected to the right Wi-Fi hot spot. Typically, Starbucks access points are called
attwifi -- AT&T is the hot spot provider for Starbucks. If you are unsure which access point to use, ask a Starbucks staff member for help or call AT&T technical support at (888) 888-7520.
After you're on the right network, all you have to do is fire up your browser and you'll arrive at a landing page. Just check the box that says you agree to Starbucks' Terms and Conditions and Acceptable Use Policy, click Connect, and you're off and running.
Your first stop once you connect will be Starbucks' free Wi-Fi landing page that includes videos, blogs, and other content from Starbucks. At the time of this writing, for example, the site had a video of a live performance by Sarah McLachlan.
Later this year, the landing page will be replaced by the Starbucks Digital Network, which will include a variety of content in cooperation with Yahoo. The company is being pretty vague about exactly what kind of content it will be offering on SDN, but I did find out that through the SDN you will be able to get free, unrestricted access to the Wall Street Journal's Web site, WSJ.com. Currently, the Journal hides some of its content behind a pay wall.
Starbucks says the SDN will include free, unrestricted access to other paid sites and services in addition to WSJ, as well as exclusive content and previews, free downloads, local community news, and activities.
So you've found your Starbucks location, you've hit the landing page and now it's time to check your email and maybe fire off a Google Doc or two, right? Wrong. While free, public Wi-Fi is a treat, it's also a great way for a hacker to invade your privacy and it exposes you to identity theft. So before you go anywhere online, let's go over some "free Wi-Fi" basics: