Does FON Threaten Starbucks' WiFi Revenues?

Advertising Age has an article in this week’s issue on the potential impact of FON’s free WiFi sharing system on Starbucks.

It includes the following take from me:

Starbucks’ Pushy New Neighbor

Some businesses already offer free Wi-Fi as a way to attract customers. Large chain restaurants such as Schlotzsky’s and Panera Bread Co. have offered free Wi-Fi for years. In fact, Panera operates one of the largest free Wi-Fi networks in the country.

“There are some costs involved in setting up and maintaining the network, but none of that changes with the Fon deal,” said Ed Kohler, a web-business developer and blogger at “Businesses will see the most benefit from providing free Wi-Fi in exchange for a customer relationship. … I don’t think this will have a significant effect on the uptake of Wi-Fi. Businesses who saw Wi-Fi as a draw have likely already adopted it by now.”

How do you see this playing out? Do you think there are coffee shops NOT offering free WiFi today who suddenly will because of FON? If Minneapolis is anything like other cities around the country, I can’t believe this is the case.

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