In an ever-increasing competitive retail world, you have to offer the customer a TOTAL experience (where most of the experience is FREE) if you want to remain competitive. Many retailers (Panera Bread and Caribou Coffee been two fierce Starbucks competitors) have offered free Wi-Fi for a while. Starbucks in the meantime was still clinging to the TMobile deal where you had to sign up for an account, pay $6 an hour. It had basically just become a hassle for folks who just wanted to grab a cup of coffee and check their email for a few minutes.

Starbucks on Monday announced it was dropping T-Mobile’s $6-an-hour Wi-Fi service for AT&T, which will provide coffee- house customers with two free hours of Internet access a day. With about 7,000 Starbucks locations in the United States, that’s a major boon for AT&T. Now the question is, how long will hotels, airports and other venues be able to continue charging sky-high fees for a service that many people see as essential as running water and electricity. I was at a hotel recently that charged $19.95 a day; I don’t think I will be going back.

Quick question for you? Is free Wi-Fi part of your decision process when determining where to spend your money?