Area Starbucks to offer free unlimited WiFi

  • WHY OFFER FREE WI-FI?

    Howard Schultz, the Starbucks' chief executive officer, said in a news release the company seeks to embrace social and digital media, and improve customer experience.

Starbucks on North Navarro Street will begin July 1 offering free unlimited wireless Internet access.

The announcement is part of a nationwide push to offer free access at all 6,700 company-operated locations.

"A lot of people have asked the company to do this," said Chelle Nickerson, the store's local manager. "We're pretty excited."

Before, local Starbucks customers could access wireless Internet only if they had registered accounts.

The company also revealed plans for this fall to allow customers free, unrestricted access to various paid sites and services. The paid sites and services include the Wall Street Journal's website, various free downloads, local community news and more, according to the company.

Darline Poynter, franchise owner of five Victoria McDonald's, said the move appears aimed to attract business from her stores, which have long offered free Internet.

"The announcement just means we've impacted them," Poynter said. "They responded to our move."

Poynter decided to offer free wireless Internet at her restaurants because she wants to remain relevant in today's tech-driven world, she said.

"It's how our customers do business these days," she said. "If we want to be a destination coffee shop, we have to offer it."

Stephanie Zapata is manager of the Hardback Cafe inside Hastings on North Navarro Street. This cafe offers free wireless Internet access to customers, too.

"I'm not really worried about the Starbucks announcement," she said. "For a long time people have come here to shop, drink coffee and get online."