Free WiFi Coming to Your Local McDonald's

Dennis Faas's picture

Got to get your fix for a Big Mac but can't stop writing that report? Then you'll be happy to know that fast food goliath McDonald's will soon be unveiling free WiFi Internet access at about 80 per cent of its U.S. locations.

Thanks to a new pact signed with AT&T, McDonald's will in January begin offering wireless Internet access to customers at 11,000 of its 14,000 American locations. Yes, that means you can now slop ketchup and Big Mac sauce all over your keyboard, rather than just Starbucks coffee. (Source:

McDonald's Targeting Starbucks?

The move is seen by business analysts as a direct attack on the Seattle coffee giant, which has for years offered wireless access at its stores -- but traditionally for a price based on the amount of surf time desired. McDonald's has also been offering WiFi at some of its locations for about $2.95 at two-hour intervals, rounding out to about $1.50 each hour.

That charge will no longer exist come the new year, and given McDonald's recent foray into the coffee market with its McCafe line of drinks, the feature could provide big trouble to Starbucks.

However, it should be kept in mind that while the move might stir things up, McDonald's and Starbucks, let's face it, provide dramatically different products. Starbucks offers high-quality coffee and fattening baked goods for exorbitant prices, and McDonald's is pretty set with its low-cost menu of fattening burgers and fries.

McDonald's Revenue Takes a Dip

In reality, the move to free WiFi might be more of a response to declining fortunes for McDonald's.

Recent reports state that McDonald's same-store sales fell more than half a per cent last month alone, dropping for the second consecutive month. A stagnant economy has McDonald's brass trying to squeeze as much value out of every one of its restaurants than ever before, and in addition to the WiFi the company has announced plans to launch a new dollar breakfast the same month.

Analyst Charles King believes the WiFi deal is evidence that the cost of wireless Internet is now so low that it can be used by companies to lure consumers who still find such an offer extremely valuable. It "indicates the degree to which WiFi-based access has become so inexpensive that it can be used as a cheap promotional gimmick," King said. (Source:

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