A September 2011 survey commissioned by the Wi-Fi Alliance found that 56 percent of millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000, consider Wi-Fi access to be a necessity. As more and more work, communication and entertainment time is spent on the internet on desktop and laptop computers, tablets and smartphones, high-speed internet via wireless networking technology is a feature that more and more people are coming to expect from any business or waiting area they enter.
While some states and cities—Austin, TX has more than 500 wireless hot spots—provide wireless in public spaces, restaurants and coffee shops are still benefiting from having adopted wireless internet access early on in the development of the technology. Already places where people would come to gather and read, coffee shops may have benefited the most from this development. Where once one would have to go to an “Internet Café,” now Wi-Fi is an expected part of any coffee shop’s business.
Where once wireless internet access was the domain of small coffee shops and the Starbuck’s chain, now McDonald’s is one of the nation’s largest Wi-Fi access providers, with free internet access available in 11,000 of the chain’s 13,000 United States locations. When McDonald’s adopts something in a vast majority of its locations, you know that technology has gone mainstream. Those consumers who might have gone elsewhere for coffee or lunch once Wi-Fi became available elsewhere are returning to the golden arches and it’s been a good thing for business at Mickey D’s.
Another indication that Wi-Fi is increasingly considered a necessity is a J.D. Power and Associates survey about hotel amenities. Free Wi-Fi is now considered the most important amenity for hotel guests, beyond complimentary breakfast and bedding and pillow choices.
With the prevalence of Wi-Fi in many urban centers and businesses, it seems like only a matter of time before some sort of free wireless internet access, like AM and FM radio bands, might be available to everyone, free of charge.