is now offering its cable broadband customers free Wi-Fi at its 10,000 hotspot locations. The company used to charge $1.99 a month for the privilege.
Those without AT&T broadband at home pay $8 a day or $20 a month for access at the company’s hotspots. The free offering also doesn’t count for AT&T DSL subscribers.
AT&T Wi-Fi operates the hotspots that used to be run by SBC under the FreedomLink brand. They also piggyback on the Wayport network run at over 8,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States.
Qualifying AT&T customers include those with AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet Pro or High Speed Internet Elite services, as well as FastAccess Xtreme and FastAccess Xtreme 6.0.
The company is also selling an AT&T branded wireless router/gateway to hook up to its broadband offerings; it claims to already be shipping 7,000 of these gateways per day. It’s free after a rebate if purchased in a store, or will be included as an instant credit with any of the AT&T broadband services when ordered online.
AT&T says it has 12.9 million broadband lines in service as of the beginning of 2007. The company also is the provider of voice and data service for the much-hyped Apple iPhone, which also has built-in Wi-Fi – but iPhone customers don’t get free access to the AT&T hotspots. They’ll have to pay $8 a day like everyone else.
The iPhone’s mobile data service is based on EDGE technology, which lacks the speed of 3G technology like EV-DO. So far, there isn’t any crossover for the iPhone user in AT&T’s voice and Wi-Fi divisions.
When asked before the iPhone launch about concerns that the EDGE network would be too slow, Apple CEO Steve Jobs told the Wall Street Journal, “There’s oftentimes a Wi-Fi network that you can join, whether you’re sitting in a coffee shop or even walking along the street piggybacking on somebody’s home Wi-Fi network. What we found is the combination is working really well.” However, the use of Wi-Fi without permission – even on a free, open network — has been landing people in hot water of late, some coming close to jail time.