Beginning in mid-January, McDonald's restaurants will become one of the nation's largest providers of free Wi-Fi Internet access, thanks to a new deal with AT&T.
Free Internet access will be available at 11,000 of the company's 13,000 U.S. locations, making McDonald's an even friendlier spot for Road Warriors in need of connectivity.
"Free" means what it says and no purchase is required, McDonald's told the Dallas Morning News . Presently, AT&T charges $2.95 for two-hours of Internet access, although the company's wired and wireless customers get free Wi-Fi at McDonald's, Starbucks, and other locations.
I've been using McDonald's hotspots for several years now, free as an AT&T customer. It is very convenient to have Internet access at such easy to find locations. Fellow business users will be interested to know the wireless coverage generally extends out into the parking lot, making it even easier to use.
The Morning News quotes AT&T saying its public Wi-Fi access points have already been used more than 51 million times during 2009, more than double the number of connections during all of 2008.
Terms of the deal between AT&T and McDonald's were not disclosed.
My take: This is happy news for anyone who needs mobile Internet access and doesn't want to pay for it, but especially for business users who depend on Internet connectivity in the field.
On more than one occasion, I've landed in a McDonald's parking lot just to use their Wi-Fi. Often with an icy Coke and a hot order of the world's best fries from the drive-thru, which I'm willing to bet is just what Mickey D's hoped I'd do.
It is also good news for iPhone users who need a faster-than-3G connection. I've done that a few times too, when I had a large download queued-up.
More free Wi-Fi is wonderful news. Thanks to McDonald's and AT&T for making it available, beginning in mid-January. In the meantime, remember that Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are offering free Internet at some locations, for limited periods of time.