Starbucks dumps AT&T for Google in Wi-Fi swap

Starbucks promises "10 times faster network and Wi-Fi speeds" with large-scale public Internet upgrade.

Starbucks says that it will drop AT&T as a wireless partner in favor of Google, boasting that the change will provide a 10-fold speed boost to the millions of users that use the coffee chain's free Wi-Fi every day.

Starbucks Wifi

The companies will partner with Level 3 Communications, a network services vendor, to replace the Wi-Fi hardware in place at Starbucks stores across the country and provide on-premise management of wireless connections. However, a spokesperson for that company declined to provide specifics on how the new setup will speed up Starbucks’ Wi-Fi, and Google would not speak on the record about its plans.

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So while it’s unclear exactly how Google and Starbucks plan to provide this speed boost, the benefits to both companies are plain – Starbucks Wi-Fi is popular but has the reputation of being slow and frequently clogged, and Google is always on the lookout for opportunities to further fine-tune its ad targeting.

Google indicated in an official blog post that the changes would be rolled out over the course of the next year and a half at all 7,000 of Starbucks’ corporate-owned U.S. locations.

Google Access general manager Kevin Lo wrote that the company views Starbucks’ free Wi-Fi service as a public good.

“The free Internet connection at Starbucks has become an important part of many communities over the years, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, or for students without Internet at home who do their homework at Starbucks,” he said.

AT&T told CNet that it had proposed a plan to provide a similar speed boost to Starbucks, and that the coffee company “continues to be an important partner for us.”

The roll-out will begin in August.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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