TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: What Starbucks Can Learn From the Movie Palace

What Starbucks Can Learn From the Movie Palace

Monty Solomon (
Sun, 4 Mar 2007 18:23:21 -0500

The New York Times
March 4, 2007

WI-FI service is quickly becoming the air-conditioning of the Internet
age, enticing customers into restaurants and other public spaces in
the same way that cold "advertising air" deliberately blasted out the
open doors of air-conditioned theaters in the early 20th century to
help sell tickets.

Today, hotspots are the new cold spots.

Starbucks became the most visible Wi-Fi-equipped national chain when
it began offering the service in 2002. Now, at more than 5,100 stores,
Starbucks offers Internet access "from the comfort of your favorite
cozy chair."

Before you pop open your laptop, however, you need to pull out your
credit card. Starbucks and its partner, T-Mobile, charge $6 an hour
for the "pay as you go" plan. Day passes or monthly subscriptions are
available but can be used only at Starbucks stores and other T-Mobile
partners like Borders bookstores.

McDonald's offers Wi-Fi in more than 8,000 of its 13,700 stores in the
United States, giving it wider reach than even Starbucks, and it also
charges for access. McDonald's doesn't charge as much: it asks $2.95
for two hours. You can't apply your T-Mobile subscription there,
however, because McDonald's works with other partners.

Metering and charging for a service, of course, is the prerogative of
any business owner in a free market. One will always find
entrepreneurs willing to try new ways to profit by erecting tollbooths
in front of facilities that had been freely accessible.

In the past, this took the form of coin-operated locks on bathroom
stalls. (You may have first encountered these at a moment when you
were least ready to praise the inventor's ingenuity.)

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