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StarbucksOne of my biggest bones to pick with Starbucks over the years is its lack of free Wi-Fi.  Maybe half of my incentive to become a Gold Card member a couple years back was to get the two free hours of Wi-Fi everyday since I like to pack my laptop up with me and sit for an hour with my latte observing people.

Starbucks is finally wising up and matching its competitors by eliminating the charge for Internet access.  McDonald's and many local city coffee shops have featured free Wi-Fi for a long time, potentially drawing otherwise loyal customers who want to catch up on emails and the local news over their personalized cup of joe.  Starting July 1, the Starbucks network will be free and loyal customers across the nation will cheer with joy.

Starbucks promises more than just free access though.  Howard Schulz, chairman, president and CEO of Starbucks, told the Wired Business Conference that in addition to Wi-Fi, the Starbucks network plans to provide local news on a level like never seen before.  

The coffee mogul is teaming up with Yahoo, The Wall Street Journal, and AOL's Patch.com to provide access to articles and news unavailable anywhere else.  Each customer will have a unique username and password to access the network, which will be able to know not just who and where you are, but tailor the stories and news coverage you receive based on your interests.  

So in short, Starbucks is giving customers a two perks: Internet, and local, personalized news for no additional charge.  Starbucks hopes its specialized network in combination with the free service will draw more customers, making Starbucks stores a more attractive coffee house, with a more local and less corporate feel.  

This change won't make me love my Gold Card any less, if anything I'll be happy not to be limited to two free hours.  I think I speak for Starbucks lovers across the country when I say I'm really looking forward to sipping my latte as I read my personalized news and local stories that won't show up anywhere else.

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