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T-Mobile Sues Starbucks Over Free Wi-Fi Deal

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the hot-spot-flare-up dept.

AT&T 142

Glenn Fleishman writes "T-Mobile sent me the text of a lawsuit they filed yesterday against Starbucks. The telecom firm alleges that Starbucks didn't involve it in any discussions to launch their free loyalty program Wi-Fi service this week with AT&T. AT&T is gradually taking over hot-spot operation from T-Mobile, market by market over the course of 2008. T-Mobile told me Starbucks is essentially giving away something that isn't theirs. T-Mobile has sued to halt the two-hours-a-day of free service, and is asking for money to cover losses. This might sound like sour grapes, but T-Mobile still operates most of the network, and says that the terms to which they agreed with Starbucks and AT&T for the transition and with AT&T for bilateral roaming don't cover this situation at all. Maybe free access in exchange for buying a cup of joe every 30 days was too good to be true (this soon)."

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supp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23699787)

they melt in your ass, not in your hands

Hmmm (4, Interesting)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699797)

Maybe I don't understand, but if Starbucks is already paying them for having the wifi service, why can't Starbucks give it away/charge for it as they like? Did the original agreement require Starbucks to charge each user on behalf of TMobile or something?

Re:Hmmm (3, Informative)

kesuki (321456) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699855)

the problem, is that starbucks rolled out this wifi thing in 2002, and instead of putting in highspeed internet in each and every starbucks, they put in a wi-fi access point that relayed the data over a cellular network.

much cheaper than paying $40 a month per location for dsl/cable, assuming each store could even realistically get broadband service.

every place that has 'free' wifi, is a place where they put in high speed internet for their 'inventory' system, and the 'free wifi' piggybacks on that internet connection. in some cases, they use satelite for the inventory system ugh.

Re:Hmmm (5, Funny)

austexmonkey (1108037) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699869)

'Thanks' for the 'explanation'. I've often 'wondered' how 'free wifi' 'worked' in 'restaurants' and the 'like'. I 'find' it surprising that 'satellite' is still used for 'inventory' 'systems'.

Re:Hmmm (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23702257)

twat.

Re:Hmmm (2, Interesting)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699951)

So what you are saying is that Starbucks partnered with T-Mobile to provide the access in 2002, rather than doing it themselves. You further imply that if Starbucks had not entered into a deal with T-Mobile, they would not be sued for violating it. Somebody mod the parent insightful! (I do consider it informative, but it has absolutely nothing to do with "the problem", which is contractual violation not technical implementation.)

There should be a -1: Unable or unwilling to capitalize option though.

Re:Hmmm (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700045)

There should be a -1: Unable or unwilling to capitalize option though.
Not trying to capitalize on your usage of capitalize but perhaps it should be -1: unable or unwilling to majusculize [wikipedia.org] to avoid confusion with -1: unable or unwilling to capitalize [investopedia.com] .

Re:Hmmm (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700055)

If there was a "-1: incorrect grammar" option there would be very few posts with a non-negative score.

I think your second comma should not be there. So don't be too harsh on others!

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700077)

"I think your second comma should not be there. So don't be too harsh on others!"
A) The comma is needed, and in the right place
B) There is a big difference between a misplaced comma, and a failure to capitalize every sentence

Re:Hmmm (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700069)

the problem, is that starbucks rolled out this wifi thing in 2002, and instead of putting in highspeed internet in each and every starbucks, they put in a wi-fi access point that relayed the data over a cellular network.

much cheaper than paying $40 a month per location for dsl/cable, assuming each store could even realistically get broadband service.

every place that has 'free' wifi, is a place where they put in high speed internet for their 'inventory' system, and the 'free wifi' piggybacks on that internet connection. in some cases, they use satelite for the inventory system ugh.
What if they don't want people to be surfing on the same network that they process all their sales/inventory... Wi-Fi is very insecure and you never know who would be tapping into that network... No matter what security features you put in place there will always be a way around them...

Source- Network Admin

Re:Hmmm (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700159)

the problem, is that starbucks rolled out this wifi thing in 2002, and instead of putting in highspeed internet in each and every starbucks, they put in a wi-fi access point that relayed the data over a cellular network.
Incorrect. TMO pulled T1's into virtually SBUX for backhaul. This is one of the reasons TMO could charge a premium. Not sure where you got the cellular idea.

Re:Hmmm (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701013)

"Not sure where you got the cellular idea."

not sleeping last night didn't help. oh well.

Re:Hmmm (5, Informative)

Ugliarch (698622) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700229)

I'm not sure that's quite true. As a technician for tmobile, I have been involved in setting up many tmobile hotspots and each one has been some sort of T1 connection to the site.

Re:Hmmm (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23701251)

every place that has 'free' wifi, is a place where they put in high speed internet for their 'inventory' system, and the 'free wifi' piggybacks on that internet connection.

So is this yet another case of someone selling "unlimited highspeed internet" and then being upset when the customer wants to fully utilize it?

Re:Hmmm (4, Interesting)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699901)

"Maybe I don't understand, but if Starbucks is already paying them for having the wifi service, why can't Starbucks give it away/charge for it as they like? Did the original agreement require Starbucks to charge each user on behalf of TMobile or something?"
Wi-Fi through T-Mobile is known as Wireless Hot Spots, and users do not pay Starbucks, they pay T-Mobile. Presumably Starbucks pays T-Mobile something under the theory that the access brings more customers. (Actually, that theory is true, as I have bought numerous Grande Cafe Mochas that I would not have otherwise purchased, because I decided to go to Starbucks instead of some other CSP (Caffeine and Sugar Provider) for the T-Mobile Hot Spot access.)

They can't give it away or charge for it as they like because they didn't purchase the infrastructure; they have a contract. ObCarAnalogy : If I buy a car from a rental company I can do with it what I wish within the bounds of the law (and optionally physics.) If I rent a car I cannot let whomever I wish use it and charge them as I like.

Disclaimer: I may have the law and physics part mixed up a bit. I forget which one is real and which is imaginary. Teh Maths are not my strong point :-)

Re:Hmmm (0, Redundant)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699935)

You actually CAN let whomever you wish use it and charge them whatever you want. But if anything happens to the car, you would be responsible for the damage. And if you weren't driving, there's all kinds of legal stuff in there.

But you CAN let someone else drive and charge them for it. Just like I CAN download movies of the bittorrents. Just because something is illegal doesn't mean you can't do it.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699975)

The discussion was about what the law allows. The "can" in my post refers to that, and my legality versus bounds of physics quip was intended to make that clear to the quick witted. I am certain it served its purpose.

Re:Hmmm (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699987)

And the law allows you to do anything as long as you're not caught.

Re:Hmmm (3, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700031)

I'm normally all for the tiresome parsing of other people's statements in ways that they clearly did not intend, but you are really pushing it here.

Re:Hmmm (3, Funny)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700041)

I have no idea what you are doing here. You should be off having sex with animals, which - by your argument - the law has been allowing you to do for years now. (See parents SlashID and E-Mail address if this sounds like it comes from the ether.)

Re:Hmmm (2, Interesting)

menace3society (768451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700115)

My understanding, having glanced at TFA and knowing someone who uses wifi in Starbucks, is that Starbucks doesn't pay them for the wifi service. You get an account with T-Mobile to use their service, which is based in Starbucks locations. T-Mobile probably pays Starbucks for the privilege.

The contract with T-Mobile is set to expire soon, so Starbucks has now gotten a better deal with AT&T to provide free service for Starbucks-card-holding customers, and better rates for irregular ones. This is all fine and dandy, but the deal is that until the AT&T roll-out is complete, the existing T-Mobile deal is to stand. However, it appears that Starbucks has somehow disabled the authentication for the T-Mobile access points, so that all their locations can have free wifi.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, though.

Re:Hmmm (1)

ConfusedVorlon (657247) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700253)

The deal will have been something like this:

T-Mobile builds supports/manages the network and infrastructure
T-Mobile charges folks to use the network and then gives x% of that revenue to starbucks (x is probably a fairly small number).

5ish years ago, that looked like a pretty sweet deal to starbucks. They're not in a position to train staff at every store to manage / support the network (not without large cost anyway), so this way they got all their shops kitted out with a useful service for free, plus they make some extra cash.

Now they're giving away the access, and t-mobile are unsurprisingly pissed off. They built a great big network and now they aren't getting paid for it's use. Moreover, t-mobile still have to provide a call centre to deal with people who can't connect and maintenance for hotspots that break.

Re:Hmmm (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700989)

Yup, you are correct, I consulted for initial deployments in some markets. TMO is footing the bill for the free AT&T/Starbucks usage.

If Starbucks so choose to have free access then the terms of the agreement require them to pay for the service out of their marketing or operating budget. Right now the free service with a drink/starbucks card is NOT being payed for to the provider, T-Mobile. That is what the beef is about.

TMO agreed to a proper transition with free services to be handled by AT&T once the full equipment handover occurred.

If Starbucks wants to offer free service before the full cut over, then AT&T needs to be paying T-Mobile for the usage.

Remember there is a revenue agreement in place through 2009 where T-Mobile is the CURRENT provider until all the hw is moved over to AT&T.

Make sense folks?

Re:Hmmm (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701217)

Exactly, Starbucks has promised a pay structure for customers to T-Mobile, it's a contract they willingly agreed to. By offering "free" wi-fi they are taking away the paying customers they promised T-Mobile... Sure TMO is getting paid for total bandwidth somehow, but the CONTRACT says they get paid per customer and TMO wants it to stick. In some ways AT&T is contract-jumping on TMO, encouraging Starbucks not to fulfill their obligations and courts really don't like that between businesses.

This type if thing is common when management doesn't really understand the corporation's agreements with their suppliers in search of a "good deal". Companies like Microsoft in the 1990's really encouraged companies to break contracts as a matter of business and if enough customers jump their contracts at once, the original company won't be in business long enough to sue!

Re:Hmmm (2, Informative)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701879)

In some ways AT&T is contract-jumping on TMO, encouraging Starbucks not to fulfill their obligations and courts really don't like that between businesses.

The phrase you are looking for is tortious interference [wikipedia.org] , where someone influences a party in a contract to breach that contract, or otherwise works to prevent a contract being established by two other parties.

sent text? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23699813)

T-Mobile sent me the text of a lawsuit they filed yesterday

Just wait, they'll charge you 50 cents for that too.

Poor T-Mobile... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23699817)

T-mobile is one of those companies that have been charging exorbitant fees for basic Wifi service.

Why would one feel sorry for t-mobile?

The least one can do is investigate for possible price-fixing between operators of paid Wifi services.

The costs to run a public WiFi service are pretty low (considering that all software is available as open-source, so no licensing fees).

Re:Poor T-Mobile... (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700901)

T-mobile is one of those companies that have been charging exorbitant fees for basic Wifi service.

Really? I find that they're usually cheaper than competing services.
Do you have an example of "exorbitant fees"?

Re:Poor T-Mobile... (3, Interesting)

torkus (1133985) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701073)

As someone else mentioned, TMO is generally cheaper than their competetion. I'd love to see where the 'exorbitant fees' are.

Ignoring that, the cost to run a public WiFi service isn't all that low if you want the ability to actively montior, track, and maintain the network. Yes, there's open source software available. How much of it is designed for centralized management of a 10,000 node public wifi network?

Even more than that, you've got the cost of the internet service (e.g. T1 lines to each hotspot). Even if you went DSL, the cost for DSL/Cable to a *business* is far higher than the $20/month promo-deal you found on fatwallet.

Could i run a single hotspot in a local coffee shop for low enough cost to give it away? Sure. Can you run one in every starbucks with 24/7 monitoring, status, and low down time for free? No. There's cost in there somewhere that has to be made up.

In case you haven't noticed, ATT is throwing money at ever opportunity they can to build customer base. The iPhone and Blackberry Bold are good examples. I doubt they'll ever disclose how much they paid for those contracts, but it's huge. How long this game will last is anyone's guess.

Re:Poor T-Mobile... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23702101)

As someone else mentioned, TMO is generally cheaper than their competetion. I'd love to see where the 'exorbitant fees' are...
Cheaper? Cheaper than what? $9.99 for a day pass when I just need to use the wi-fi for a 45 minute meeting where I have already bought my colleagues coffee is very exorbitant - especially in the midwest.

This is why I go to Panera - completely free wifi - except at the cost of logging in with an email address for their marketing emails...

Its crystal clear... (0, Troll)

Doorjam (770005) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699829)

T-Mobile hates coffee drinkers.

Does anyone actually Care (-1, Flamebait)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699857)

I do not do T-Mobile or Starbucks. How is this even close to Nerd News?

Re:Does anyone actually Care (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23699875)

I do not do T-Mobile or Starbucks. How is this even close to Nerd News?
It involves caffeine and computers, how would it not be interesting to nerds? What we have here is a Pringles can full of burnt coffee causing a failure to communicate.

Re:Does anyone actually Care (1)

ddrichardson (869910) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701365)

What we have here is a Pringles can full of burnt coffee causing a failure to communicate.

Wait, that's [wordpress.com] not burnt coffee...

Re:Does anyone actually Care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23699991)

News flash! The scope of nerdity is not limited solely to things that you "do".

Re:Does anyone actually Care (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701123)

News flash! The scope of nerdity is not limited solely to things that you "do".
Must resist... obvious... Slashdotter sex life... joke... Must... speak like... William Shatner...

hmm (1)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699873)

I wonder why they are switching to AT&T?

Re:hmm (4, Insightful)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699949)

Because AT&T threw money at them. The iPhone and Starbucks target demographics overlap heavily.

Re:hmm (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700177)

The iPhone and Starbucks target demographics overlap heavily.

Just thinking about that demographic makes my skin crawl...

Re:hmm (5, Funny)

iknowcss (937215) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700237)

LOL what's a demographic?

Sent from my iPhone

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700759)

Never you mind. Now finish drinking your koolaid.

Sent from my Nokia E70

Re:hmm (1)

WwWonka (545303) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701111)

a demograph# is a 3rr% what **s caaaaaaa.....ohh&& fffk it sent from my T Mobile phone

Free wifi should be universal (5, Insightful)

teslatug (543527) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699895)

I still don't get why every coffe place doesn't have free, unencumbered wifi access to everyone. It's a great way to get more customers. I always check if there is a free wifi before getting coffee some place. It won't cost them more than a few cents per coffee, which they could easily hide in their 3,4,5 dollar beverages. It boggles the mind.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (4, Interesting)

stickystyle (799509) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699913)

Freeloaders that never will buy coffee.

Don't tell me that's not obvious to you.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700033)

2 of the smaller coffee shops around here with free wifi solved that.

you have a code on your recipt. that code is entered into the nocatauth screen to give you access.

It's brain dead easy to do with IT people that know what they are doing. Maybe starbucks needs to hire competent IT people?

Re:Free wifi should be universal (2, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700273)

That would be the way I would do it as well. Advathage is that you can give more time at moments there are lesser people. You can even link it to a customer card, so people who come more often get more bandwith and/or more time.

I would expect this to be standard. Just a code and a timelimit connected to it.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (2, Interesting)

rshimizu12 (668412) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700465)

I think this is a great idea as well. Personally I don't understand why the coffee houses did not adopt this type of demand pull marketing years ago. it's ridiculous to think that people are going to pay another $30 a month for wifi. For Starbucks ATT service makes a lot of sense because they cater to a wide range of customers. For ATT it makes a lot of sense, because it gives users incentive to sign up DSL/U-verse service since it is provided free with the service. The Starbucks model is supplanting city wide wifi, because they have so many locations.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700379)

Except that won't help a bit if I want to poll my e-mail to my PDA. The user might not even have a web browser. Reinforcing the perception that internet = web, like you do here, is a Bad Thing.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (2, Interesting)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700503)

Fine.... you create a set of randomized passwords. in order to use the service, you use the username of "starbucks" and one of the random passwords that is only good for one hour. You can tell your blackberry, phone, pda to use a certain login for the network, and that should do it. Same idea really.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700675)

how about entering the 20th century and getting a web browser for your pda?

Cripes most people gave up their crappy early 90's PDA a long time ago. and all current pdas have a web browser.

Or do you not know how to use your pda?

Re:Free wifi should be universal (0)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700513)

Hot Spot's always seem a bit pricey for what you get.

however now i have a connection where ever I go since I got a skypephone from
3 I am not that keen on the contracts but as pay as you go its great
buy £10 top up convert £5 for internet access (£2 would get you tv for the month)
which leaves £5 for calls.

go into the connectivity menu choose bluetooth modem or usb (bluetooth works fine for ubuntu) and i just use pppd call gprs in the terminal and my laptops connected.

They also do a linux friendly usb dongle with hispeed internet (1gb a month for £10) but for light use the skype phone is great plus skype to skype calls are free for 5000 minutes talk time or 10,000 texts.

so really i am not bothered where i drink my coffee, using codes, and portals is no longer an issue.

sorry if i sound like a raving advert for 3 but really in the uk you can not do better than their mobile data service.

T-mobile here does web'n'walk for £7.50 a month but it really is web only.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

Corbets (169101) | more than 6 years ago | (#23702047)

Starbucks does something like that here in Switzerland. You can go to the counter and ask for a little throw-away card that has a code valid for 30 minutes wifi access. It's free, but you can only get one at a time - you have to go up and ask for another to get more access.

It works on the theory that you'll be too embarrassed to sit there freeloading and getting a new card every half hour for 4 hours in a row. In Swiss culture, for the most part, that works. I'm not so sure it'd fly back home in Chicago. ;-)

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 6 years ago | (#23702627)

So 2 small coffee shops, McDonald's, Et. Al. solved the problem of how to provide free Wi-Fi access by making it not free. Lets set them on the Cold Fusion problem immediately!

I have also heard of women who are giving away free sex! every time you buy them a mink coat.

(The parent doesn't mention Mickey D's, but they have been doing this for quite some time now as well)

Re:Free wifi should be universal (2, Insightful)

newsdee (629448) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700953)

I live in a city where every coffee house offers free open wifi to everybody. You don't even need to buy to get on it. And my town's neighborhood management council offers free wifi in the largest public areas (where most of the shops are). And they still manage to make money. If you're outside using the net and get thirsty, you're most likely to get into the coffeehouse and get a cup of something.

The thing is that once most places offer free wifi, not having it is a disadvantage.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (2, Insightful)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699963)

a lot of coffee places I know DO give it away free, both local shops and some larger chains like Panara Bread and Atlanta Bread Comp. The whole reason I DONT go to Starsucks is because the coffee is not that great and having to PAY for crappy coffee and wifi service is too much for me when I can go down the street to someplace with a decent cup and free wifi.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700053)

I have never been in a Starbucks. Odd but true. I was just thinking of that. But, well, I have done way too much traveling. I am not certain but it seems highly probable that in many areas where you can find a Starbucks you can also find some free wireless service. I am currently smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Vienna, Maine is the middle of nowhere. [wikipedia.org] There are two open wireless networks to fairly decent 1.5 Mb ADSL service, this is often the case.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (3, Interesting)

Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700213)

You would think so, but there are market oddities that I've never been able to grok.

Seattle is one of the more unwired cities, yet charging for wifi is the semi-accepted norm there.

Portland, while arguably the most unwired, has an environment where charging for cafe wifi is culturally unacceptable. Starbucks still charges for it here, but being a corp controlled entity that receives marching orders from distant overlords, they really don't count.

So, in some markets, charging for wifi may make business sense.

A lot depends on the ethic your company has and what drives it.

We're coffee driven - best beans our buyer can find, roasted by the best roasters in the world, prepared by baristas who have been selected for their passion for coffee.

That's not meant as an advertisement or anything.

It's just that we have one focus, and selling wifi, or panini, or anything else that detracts from serving the best cup possible just isn't going to happen.

So our free wifi is in place because of both who we are and where we are.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

Methuseus (468642) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700427)

You honestly believe that this is still true? I remember when I loved Starbucks coffee. But in the past few years the quality of the beans and baristas have gone down. The coffee 95% of the time tastes burnt, and the baristas are by and large rude, and seem to not know what they are doing. Smaller shops now do much better, from my standpoint.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700695)

The coffee 95% of the time tastes burnt
That's the style. Some people like it roasted even more, but not in the US. Most places in the US do a light or medium roast. Starbucks (and most northwest coffee shops) does a dark roast. This is a choice, not a mistake. You probably prefer a medium or light roast. Starbucks does carry some coffee with those roasts, but very few. Going to Starbucks and complaining that the coffee is too roasted is like going to a sushi place and complaining the fish is under cooked.

No, no No! I do NOT work for SB (1)

Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700833)

I agree that Sbux coffee is utter ass. I give kudos to Bux for educating people that there is coffee beyond what the grocer offers, but they are now doomed by their own success. They didn't build their business on being the best - they built it on being better than what was currently available. They still are better than what was available - in the '70's. Specialty roasters have moved on.

Dark roasted coffee's are generally bunk. I can tell you that at least one roaster (not us) uses dark roasts for all their misroasted coffees, on the assumption that anyone buying dark roasted coffee has such an undifferentiated palate that they'll never know the difference.

SB:Coffee::McD's:burgers

Fortunately, I still have a taste for generic slapped together burgers.

I have no taste for overroasted generic beans brewed by generic baristas that have no clue what's going on under the hood when they brew.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (5, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699981)

I still don't get why every coffe place doesn't have free, unencumbered wifi access to everyone

For the same reason that the people who DO provide it without any connection to a transaction end up having all of their seats taken up by non-customers, and have to put up notices begging people to limit their use of the system during their peak business hours.

I've had reason to pick sit-down-for-coffee-and-a-pastry places several mornings in the last couple of weeks. Within a couple hundred meters from each other: a Barnes & Noble, which uses AT&T for their $3.99/two-hours deal, Starbucks (which uses the above-mentioned, much more expensive T-Mobile deal), and a Corner Bakery Cafe, which loudly proclaims via storefront window stickers that all of their cafes now have free WiFi. Yes it's free, but it's intermittently wonkly, slow slow slow, and clearly wanders through a laborious proxy (just like the free service at Panera).

There's outside seating at the Corner Bakery. Every morning and lunchtime it all fills up with people from the local office buildings. They walk in to Starbucks for the better cup of coffee, and then walk over to the Corner Bakery and sit down to use the free wifi. If I were managing that store, it would piss me off. As a customer with the decengy to give the Corner Bakera $3 and change for some eggs on toast, it pisses me off to have less use of the pipe because other people are hammering it (this morning, five people sitting outside onlone: one was streaming YouTube, and one was video chatting (badly). But what are they going to do, burn good will with people who might, one day, actually buy a sandwich from them, by running them off? So, the leeches win, and the actual customers they're hoping to attract lose. I guess they could put in six nodes and an OC48.

The same local Starbucks couldn't possibly seat the number of camp-out road warriors who would hog their pipe if it were free to all. At least if you couple the use of the wifi service to the purchase of their served products, there's something redeeming in offering the service... and less of a need to run of the leeches.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700051)

If I were the manager of the bakery, I would start selling better coffee.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (5, Interesting)

Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700065)

The problem is that your local Mom & Pop cafe isn't managing their wifi properly.

Our cafes all offer free wifi, and it will always be free, and not tied to transactions.

I was dragged into a Starbucks once a couple of years ago.
Annoyed the crap out of me that I would have had to pay for wifi.

I just upgraded one of our locations to 16/2, and another will get upgraded next week.

I monitor usage to weed out activities that that can cause us liability - but that's about it.

We've received two dmca letters to date, which caused me to go OpenDNS to block the p2p websites and I block unencrypted p2p at the router. The only dns block categories I use are p2p and phishing sites.

Am I blocking the ability of someone to download the latest Ubuntu distro?
Only if they are running unencrypted. And if they do hit a blocked site, customers are given a page telling them why and email and phone number are listed if they have any questions or concerns.

I've had zero calls/emails so far.

Our strategy may not work for everyone, but I like to think we have a better class of customer than most cafes.
Certainly much higher than the mouth breathing foofoo coffee denizens of Starbucks.

$95 a month is cheap to ensure a fast, reliable connection.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700239)

The problem is that your local Mom & Pop cafe isn't managing their wifi properly.

How so? All you've done is advocate the removal of all restrictions on a network. How does that solve the problem listed in the post you're responding to, that of too many non-customers using too much bandwidth?

Re:Free wifi should be universal (5, Interesting)

Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700387)

I was explaining what I do - not offering a solution.


If I had a problem with a couple of bandwidth pigs, I'd first try publically disallowing high bandwidth activities that I truly don't want - ie: unencrypted Bittorrent.


Next would be to use proto based qos and drop high bw protos to the bottom of the heap.


Following that would be to isolate any individual troublemakers and use mac based qos to slow their connection to unusability.


There are *lot* of things that can be done to discourage certain types of usage.


Again, I likely have a better class of user than most cafes, so it was a trivial matter to trim out the unwanted usage.


If this is beyond the means of an individual cafe owner, it is easy to get help.

Most localities of any size have some sort of volunteer group dedicated to ubiquitous free wifi.


We have a group here that will go so far as providing the ap and supporting it as long as the owner springs for the internet connection. I've even seen them arrange a sponsor to pay for the connection in key areas where there are no existing free ap's.


If the issue is one of simply too many freeloaders physically crowding out the paying customers, then, yes - you have a thorny problem if the cafe operators are technically challenged.


We have a pretty tightly knit community and this has never been an issue, other than the cars in the lot sucking up free wifi in the wee hours of the morning. And even those are merely a curiosity. They don't displace paying customers. I suspect they are too embarrassed to occupy a seat without making a purchase.


I'm glad we have such a community. I can walk into the cafe - announce that I need to reboot the router, and my customers have no problem asking me to wait a few minutes while they finish a quiz for their distance learning class. They have no problem approaching me about issues connecting, etc.


And I'm not even in the cafes that much, other than to grab some nice french pressed single origin to start my day.


Maybe I'm just lucky that my employer knows what he's doing, and our customers are generally fiercely loyal and wouldn't do anything to damage the community we enjoy.


Every day I wake up happy to go to work, and consider myself fortunate to be well paid to do what I would be willing to do for free.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

Unoti (731964) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700869)

That's all fascinating and useful information. But honestly, that's technically beyond half the slashdot readers, much less people that run coffee shops. Certainly there's a lot of slashdot readers who can do this stuff in their sleep, and of course they will be the ones to respond to this message and tell me what a retard I am, and how simply everyone is a network specialist except for me. I am fairly technical, but networks aren't my specialty. If I wanted to do even half the things you listed above, it'd take me at least a day or two of long hours of fiddling studying and researching.

What you're suggesting is good solid information. But really your statements support the idea that requires labor and expertise (that is, expense) to provide this service and have it not suck.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

KevinIsOwn (618900) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701019)

If I wanted to do even half the things you listed above, it'd take me at least a day or two of long hours of fiddling studying and researching.
Wow a whole couple days of fiddling with something. Sure, everyone has "better" things to do, but that doesn't mean you couldn't play with it for a while over the course of a couple weeks and get it working like you want. It isn't rocket science, just a bit of RTFM.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701087)

But really your statements support the idea that requires labor and expertise (that is, expense) to provide this service and have it not suck.
Show me one place where someone who has no idea what he's doing can provide you with good service. Of course offering Wi-Fi to your customers means that you somehow need to have access to someone who knows his networking. You need reasonably well-trained people for every kind of service.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (3, Interesting)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700389)

I have to wonder, as I've never used Wifi at a coffee shop, are these networks secured at all ?

I admit that I don't really know the exact problems faced by these coffee shops, but assuming it's as simple as non-customers using up tons of bandwidth then why not print the WPA key on the receipts and change it each morning ? If you don't want to tie Wifi to a transaction then write it on the menu and make it so it's not visible from outside the coffee shop. That way you at least get people inside of your store, and business 101 says that getting people in the door is the first step towards making a sale. And lets face it, coffee shops are there to make money. If people are physically entering the store and sitting down at a table to use Wifi and not paying for anything then there's no reason not to ask them to leave. I mean restaurants and strip clubs don't have a problem asking non-paying customers to GTFO. Why is it different for coffee shops ?

As for bandwidth hogging activities I don't really see any reason NOT to block bit torrent and p2p etc. Letting people surf the net and check their e-mail over a coffee seems, to me, to be the real reason to offer Wifi. Torrents and p2p don't just hog bandwidth they can create potential liability for the business. So while the GP didn't necessarily offer any solutions to big chains I have to agree with him that any coffee shop running into problems isn't managing their network properly.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23701555)

the mouth breathing foofoo coffee denizens of Starbucks.

What are you talking about? I walk past three on my commute through town. Looks like an ordinary mix of people drinking coffee to me.

I was dragged into a Starbucks once a couple of years ago.

I haven't been inside one for years myself -- since I live downtown I've no need to join a lineup or sit in a store. But should I enter I don't expect the people I see sitting inside and outside will suddenly mutate.

You really need to get a grip on your elitist fantasies.
http://www.penny-arcade.com/images/2002/20020722l.gif [penny-arcade.com]

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700415)

A simple solution is to turn down the signal strength on the radio, so the users have to sit inside to use the WiFi. Then they can be treated like any other user who sits without buying anything, i.e. asked to leave.

Free wifi for customers? Sure. Do it like this... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700911)

For the same reason that the people who DO provide it without any connection to a transaction end up having all of their seats taken up by non-customers, and have to put up notices begging people to limit their use of the system during their peak business hours.

Print a one-time key good for half an hour after the purchase on the receipt. Let people pay for longer-listing keys at the register. You'll get some yobboes dumpster-diving for keys, yes, but it'll discourage most of the leeches.

The reason that "for pay" wifi is a bust is that it's too damn hard to pay for it. There's a bookstore near my daughter's work with a hotspot... but to get on, you have to sign up ahead of time, get an account, with a credit card, it's almost as much hassle as getting cellphone service... and you have to do it again for each company doing wifi.

I realize that it'd be hard to hook it into the register, because those things are all proprietary one-offs, but how about an access point with a little receipt printer that sits on the counter next to the register with three buttons on it: "tall", "grande", and "day pass". When you buy a mocha latte you can ask for a wifi key, the barrista hits a button and you get a tall (30 minutes) or grande (90 minutes), and hands you the printout. Or you can buy a day pass for 10 bucks.

Re:Free wifi for customers? Sure. Do it like this. (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701375)

I agree that it's too hard to GET wi-fi at most of the places that offer it. McDonald's Wayport is the only chain I've seen that lets you pay for just 2 hours, but you still have to sign on the website and put in a credit card for $3 which would turn many people off. The store managers and workers know NOTHING about how it works and can't just take the $3 at the register.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

tachyonflow (539926) | more than 6 years ago | (#23702089)

Corner Bakery has free wi-fi now? Sweet! I'm going to have to check that out.

By the way, if it works anything like Panera Bread's system, web browsing can be made a LOT faster by tunneling to your own proxy at home instead of using theirs.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699985)

Nice idea but it doesn't work - the wifi costs to maintain, and someone has to pay for that. The local starbucks have both terminated their wifi recently (well, one of them nearly a year ago now) and have no plans to renew it. AFAIK there is no wifi at all now around here.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700111)

It costs virtually nothing to maintain a free access point.
Granted, the company I work for is just large enough to employ me as a 3/4 time net admin, but any independent that doesn't have their own IT structure could easily have their isp set it up.
I spend maybe an hour a week per ap peeking and poking, but that's only because I'm around anyway.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

AtariKee (455870) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700899)

Where I work, we have free wifi. It's Directway/DirectPC, and it's so throttled (about 10k/sec average) that no one could possibly abuse it. Those who have tried have pretty much given up. At most, we have two or three people at one time who sit and drink their bottomless cup of coffee and use the wifi for more than a couple of hours,and that's usually during third shift when the place is dead anyway.

Starbucks can afford it (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700339)

Nice idea but it doesn't work - the wifi costs to maintain, and someone has to pay for that.
OK. Starbucks made approximately $672 million [yahoo.com] in profit during 2007. They also had approximately 8500 stores during that time. Assuming it costs in total $100 per store for wifi, That is still less than two tenths of one percent (0.2%) of Starbucks profit for 2007 alone. Somehow I don't think that will break the company...

I doubt your figure (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700895)

MEGACORPS have to play by some rules little guys don't

100.19 per MONTH covers my highspeed COMMERCIAL connection from comcast
which I am not allowed to use to supply wifi to the public

I do anyway

I've never asked what the fee would be for a connection where I am allowed to do so.

now-- imagine a starbucks where commercial cable modems aren't available, and a T-1 is required.

100 per store won't cut it..

The figure is an example (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700925)

MEGACORPS have to play by some rules little guys don't

100.19 per MONTH covers my highspeed COMMERCIAL connection from comcast
which I am not allowed to use to supply wifi to the public
Yeah, they get negotiating power and economies of scale. 8500 stores gives a LOT of negotiating leverage. A company I used to own paid $250/month for a shitty speed connection but we had no negotiating options as there were no competitors available. Starbucks isn't in that position.

That said, the $100 figure was just an example. Even if the cost were 5 times that (possible though I think unlikely) it still is less than 1% of their annual profit. The cost of Wifi is a rounding error to Starbucks. I don't blame Starbucks for getting people to pay if they are willing to pay but they certainly can afford to provide it for free.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700393)

My local coffee shop has free wifi. There never seems to be a problem with seating, speeds as good as my own cable at home and faster than my employer's network.

Clearly, it *can* be done. Starbucks/TMobile/ATT are just not the people to do it.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (2, Insightful)

klapaucjusz (1167407) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699989)

I still don't get why every coffe place doesn't have free, unencumbered wifi access to everyone. It's a great way to get more customers. I always check if there is a free wifi before getting coffee some place.

You're assuming that they have their own ADSL link to every shop. They don't. They decided to let T-Mobile and AT&T control their networking infrastructure, and the operators are understandably less than thrilled by the free competition.

In other words, they decided to give control of their network to a potentially hostile company, and they're getting what they bargained for.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23701203)

The larger shops will be slower to offer access because rollouts affect thousands and tens of thousands of stores rather than a few hundred regional stores. While smaller shops are more nimble, larger shops try to save every penny by taking time to observe how to implement something in a cost-effective way. If it doesn't offer free wifi, a lack of free wifi probably probably doesn't affect its bottom line much.

It does not boggle the mind when a large company is cautious because it is large enough to save millions simply by changing reducing the cost of an item by a tenth of a penny.

Re:Free wifi should be universal (1)

FewClues (724340) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701241)

Have you ever tried to get a seat at a Starbucks around 3:30 in the afternoon? So now you have an additional reason for those airheads to sit around talking about boys at the office.

bandwidth cap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23699911)

Does offering the free internets significantly increase the bandwidth Stabucks uses from AT&T/T-Mobile?

Did T-Mobile actually make the mistake of offering them a REAL unlimited plan?

Lawsuit happy.. (5, Interesting)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699947)

These are also the people who tried to copyright the color magenta. They also have sued at least two companies that I know of over 'their' color.

Maybe these lawsuits are the last flailing movements of a dying beast.

Re:Lawsuit happy.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700433)

They trademarked the color magenta. It is quite common for companies to trademark a color. John Deere is known for its green machinery. A salt company whose name I can't remember has (or had) a slogan about being the one in the yellow bag.

Re:Lawsuit happy.. (4, Informative)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700479)

Trademark, not copyright. Here [engadget.com] . I don't really care about the merits of T-Mobile's claims, but there is Supreme Court precedent saying that a color can be trademarked in certain narrow circumstances (the alleged holder must show "secondary meaning"--basically, that customers associate the color with the brand). Recall that trademark traditionally (and arguably still mostly) is geared towards alleviating customer confusion. In that light, such a trademark might make sense (again, not saying it does in T-Mobile's case, as I don't know anything about it).

See Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159 (1994) [justia.com] for illumination. I disagreed with the concept until I studied the case in IP Law. Now I'm neutral.

Re:Lawsuit happy.. (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701109)

In that light, such a trademark might make sense (again, not saying it does in T-Mobile's case, as I don't know anything about it).
In Germany, magenta is the Deutsche Telekom (which T-Mobile is a part of) color. Most of DTAG's* corporate identity is built around the color magenta, the upper-case T and small squares. Combine two of the three (or have a product strting with "T-") and most people in Germany will assume it's a DTAG product.

Re:Lawsuit happy.. (1)

pyrrhonist (701154) | more than 6 years ago | (#23701163)

These are also the people who tried to copyright the color magenta.

The T-Mobile logo is not some lousy magenta, it is Pantone Rhodamine Red!

Re:Lawsuit happy.. (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23702353)

Maybe these lawsuits are the last flailing movements of a dying beast.

A dying beast, you mean a division of Deutsche Telecom? Yeah, the largest phone company in the E.U. must be on their last breath over this.

Sour Grapes? (1)

coolgabe (729004) | more than 6 years ago | (#23699997)

Look it up before you use a phrase you don't quite understand.

Huh? (2, Insightful)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700007)

How is it comapnies can sue for _NOT_ doing buisness with them?

Maybe I'm missing something but this sounds like the equivalent of getting a lawsuit from Dominos because I ordered a pizza from Papa Johns instead.

Re:Huh? (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700091)

The original agreement with T-Mobile is probably exclusive in some way. It isn't like Domino's suing you because you ordered from Papa John's, It's like Domino's suing you because you let Papa John's use the pizza booth in your living room, when you had agreed to only allow Domino's to use the booth.

Contracts (2, Informative)

digitalderbs (718388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700109)

FTA :

The suit notes, "If AT&T or Starbucks wanted to offer 'free' Wi-Fi in non-transitioned stores for Starbucks customers, as they are now doing, they should have - and, indeed, were contractually required to - negotiate such an arrangement with T-Mobile."

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700199)

How is this modded insightful? Maybe your analogy would wok if you ordered pizza from Papa Johns and then Papa Johns walked into Dominos and made your pizza using Dominos kitchen, ovens, ingredients, etc. Pretty huge difference.

TMO purchased and installed the network. Reading the click-through, and using common sense, they also had some control over who else can use the network (which other operators, and the nature of these roaming sub agreements). SBUX apparently violated the agreement and tried to cut TMO out. SBUX simply jumped the gun as the agreement was nearing the end.

t-mobile vs starbucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23700185)

t-mobile sucks anyways. that is the worst service provider i ever head :D And I am not going to order their service any more.

go go starbucks! I will come more often

A case for the FTC? (0)

Perp Atuitie (919967) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700303)

Seems like the antitrust guys need to look at this marriage between AT&T and Starbucks. With this duopoly in place nobody else will have a chance in the overpriced crap market.

But does their contract guarantee exclusivity? (2, Informative)

brundlefly (189430) | more than 6 years ago | (#23700545)

There's nothing about Wi-Fi technology which would prevent AT&T and T-Mobile from both being offered in the same stores. Choose the provider whose price suits you best. (Per-hour for T-Mobile, or mandatory occasional coffee purchase for AT&T.)

If T-Mobile has no exclusivity contract, then my ruling would be that they are up the creek.

Then again, IANAJ.

Panera Bread Company and McDonalds (1)

John Murdoch (102085) | more than 6 years ago | (#23702701)

I'm at a loss trying to decide who I have less sympathy for--T-Mobile for thinking they can charge $10 for a Wi-Fi connection, or Starbucks for thinking that providing the $10 connection is going to bring in the 'Net-savvy customer.

Panera Bread Company and McDonald's are both offering free (as in beer) Wi-Fi access. In my experience McD's Wi-Fi is not terribly consistent--it appears to depend heavily on the technical sophistication of the local franchise owner. Panera Bread, on the other hand, has been uniformly consistent all across the country.

(We're developing a "routinely connected" application that we're deploying on sales reps' notebooks--so we're carefully watching Wi-Fi hotspot deployment. We *love* Panera Bread Company--if they'd give us an updated list of locations each month we'd publish it to our reps.)

John Murdoch

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