America’s biggest de-facto office is about to get super-fast Google-supplied WiFi

This guy: an ad sale waiting to happen.
This guy: an ad sale waiting to happen.
Image: Melanie Stetson Freeman / AP / The Christian Science Monitor
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Freelancers, small business owners and coffee addicts rejoice: Google announced Wednesday that it will provide free WiFi in 7,000 Starbucks stores in the US within the next 18 months. The company will start rolling out the network across the stores starting in August.

The deal is a win-win for Starbucks and Google. AT&T previously supplied the WiFi in their stores, but connecting to Google’s network will allow customers to access websites up to 10 times faster. This speed will be 100 times faster in areas that are within a Google Fiber city, the company’s fee-based ultra-fast internet service. Those connected to the network will also have access to Google’s AllAccess music service to stream radio and music.

Google is experienced in providing mass WiFi. It spreads free WiFi across Mountain View, California, home of its headquarters, to a population of 70,000 (according to the 2011 census). Last week the company announced that it would provide free wireless in 31 city parks in San Francisco, paying $600,000 for the installation costs. The company is also planning to operate a wireless network across Africa and Asia, using blimps and balloons to carry its signal.

Why is Google willing to pay to install public WiFi? The common characteristic of Google’s latest products—the Chromebook, the Chromebook pixel and now, Chromecast—is their need for internet access.

Wiring up more people also makes more money for Google, whose revenues are largely based on advertising sales. By choosing Starbucks, Google is essentially providing access to America’s biggest de-facto office.

Google’s next WiFi target? No doubt Americans would be elated for the company to spread its WiFi love to airports, known for their expensive, horribly slow connections.