Where’s the Free WiFi HotSpots?

With a portable device like the Dell Mini 9, you’re probably wondering were you can use it with a free WiFi connection. Although there seems to be a lot of WiFi “Hotspots” popping up everywhere, not all of them are free. I travel a lot for my job, and as such I always look for a coffee shop to be my temporary, “virtual” office. Being in Washington State, I usually search out Tully’s Coffee shops because they offer free WiFi access. But outside of WA, there aren’t very many Tully’s to be found. Of course, Starbucks shops are everywhere, and they also offer WiFi service through AT&T. However, it is not free access.

On a recent business trip, I noticed that Starbucks is now offering complimentary WiFi access if you have a Starbucks card. It’s not a credit card, but rather a gift card that you can load with any dollar amount. I was told by the Starbucks barista that I only need $5.00 on the card to have access to the complimentary WiFi in their store. So, I got a card and had the barista put $20 on it.

As it turns out, you need to go online and register the card at www.starbucks.com first. Then, you need to accept certain Terms and Conditions by AT&T (where you agree to allow them to email you 4 times a year with ads, etc.) to activate WiFi access. After that procedure, you can use your starbucks.com login name and password to connect to the AT&T WiFi network at any local Starbucks (that offers WiFI). The only restriction, is that you can only have one 2-hour session per day. You also need to use the Starbucks gift card once a month or so to keep it active for WiFi Access.

Since there’s Starbucks everywhere and I often need to check my emails, etc. while on travel, this seems to be a good fit for me. It really doesn’t cost me anything, since I can use the card to purchase coffee (which I normally do at least once a week). So if you also travel and want to get WiFi access occassionally, check out www.starbucks.com for details.

Note, that you can also use the Starbucks login name and password for other AT&T WiFi hotspots. For example, I was at the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport recently and was able to connect to their AT&T WiFi system using my Starbucks login. Since McDonalds is offering WiFi through AT&T, my Starbucks login should also work there (although I haven’t tested it yet). So, it’s definitely worth getting and registering the Starbucks gift card.

Recently, I’ve read that Jack-In-The-Box is offering free WiFi to it’s customers at their recently remodeled stores. The WiFi Hotspot should show up as “jackwifi”, and you will be asked to enter a store code in the web browser form. This code number is displayed on the bottom left hand corner of the store’s big TV screen, so it limits access to customers who are inside the store.

In addition to coffee shops and some fast food vendors, you can also get free WiFi at some airports (e.g., Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, Portland Intl Airport, etc) and at some budget hotels (e.g., Comfort Inn, Days Inn, etc). So, free WiFi is available… you just need to be in the right spot!

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