Is Google the New WiFi of Coffee Snobs?

AT&T is out at Starbucks, and Google is in. Is there a correlation between coffee elitism and Wi-Fi elitism?

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

August 2, 2013

2 Min Read
Is Google the New WiFi of Coffee Snobs?

As I waited in line at my packed neighborhood Starbucks where everyone was on either their phone or laptop, I thought, "Man, that sucks for AT&T Inc. that Google is taking over its 7,000 stores."

Starbucks revealed this week that it will replace the free 1.5 Mbit/s WiFi service AT&T has exclusively provided it since 2008 with Google's Level 3-supported WiFi boasting speeds that are 10 times faster. Apparently, the coffee elite require speeds that work as fast as their over-caffeinated brains.

For its part, AT&T says that it wanted to continue to working with Starbucks and that it, too, offered 10-times more speed. I imagine the Starbucks switcheroo came down to a business decision, or perhaps it saw more of a future with Google for online collaborations on the sign-in screen. But I think there's also a sort-of brand cache to Google that meshes well with coffee shop frequenters, whether they're there to work, see and be seen, or, typically, both.

People love Google, or just the idea of an open, free Google, a lot more than that they do wireless carriers. They clamored for its fiber deployment, even if it hasn't amounted to anything extraordinary yet, and something tells me they'll love the idea of having it in Starbucks as well.

AT&T has been one of the most bullish on WiFi in the US, and in my experience at Starbucks, its service has been reliable enough. It currently has more than 32,000 WiFi hotspots deployed nationwide, as well as more than 25,000 WiFi links outside of Starbucks. Losing the coffee maker's business indoors won't devastate the company, but it doesn't look good either.

Working in the carrier's advantage, however, is the fact that it does still supply WiFi to Chicago's Intelligentsia locations, which any true coffee snob knows is superior to Starbucks anyway...

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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