When Did Starbucks Begin Offering Free Wi-Fi To Customers?

For many people, Starbucks is the place to grab their favorite coffee drink before heading to work, or somewhere else. For plenty of other people, Starbucks is the place to linger as they savor their Caramel Macchiato, Frappucino, or cold brew, while meeting up with friends, doing a bit of work, or just catching up with their social media. After all, Starbucks founder Howard Shultz has always wanted the coffee chain to become a "third place" (after home and the workplace), where people can socialize and work, according to CNet.

The availability of free Wi-Fi at each one of the 9,265 company-operated stores and 6,608 licensed Starbucks stores in the US in 2022 (per Statista) certainly helps facilitate the popularity of Starbucks as that third place, especially in this day and age of constant connectivity. And though it's something we take for granted now, you may be wondering when it was that Starbucks started offering free Wi-Fi to customers?

Starbucks has offered Wi-Fi for several decades now

Starbucks first started offering Wi-Fi in its stores in 2002. The hotspot service, through T-Mobile, was initially offered as a free initial trial at around 1,200 Starbucks stores in the US, with subsequent charges on a prepaid, pay-as-you-go, and monthly basis, notes Internet News. In 2008, reports Network World, Starbucks switched its network from T-Mobile to AT&T at its 7,000 stores in the US and also started offering two free hours of Wi-Fi access per day to customers who were also Starbucks Card holders.

That all changed in 2010, when Starbucks started offering free unlimited Wi-Fi to all customers at all of its stores, according to the Starbucks website. In 2013, Starbucks switched to Google as its Wi-Fi partner, which resulted in download speeds that were 18x faster, and upload speeds that were 6x faster than previously available under AT&T (via Fierce Wireless). According to a CNet ranking of 16 different coffee and fast food chains, Starbucks easily came in first for offering the fastest Wi-Fi. In 2018, according to Eater, Starbucks also announced its "Third Place Policy," where anyone, so long as they "use the space as intended" and are "considerate of others," can gather and connect at any of their stores, even if they don't make a purchase, which means that customers no longer have to order anything to take advantage of the free and fast Wi-Fi at Starbucks.