Excerpt: McDonald's Corp. will soon start offering free wireless Internet access at its U.S. restaurants as part of the fast-food chain's transformation from its hamburger roots into a hang-out destination.
Starting in mid-January, McDonald's will lift a $2.95 fee that it had charged customers for two hours of wireless Internet access, available at about 11,000 of its 14,000 domestic locations, McDonald's USA Chief Information Officer David Grooms said in an interview.
The free access comes under a partnership with AT&T Inc., which provides McDonald's stores with wireless Internet. Mr. Grooms wouldn't discuss financial details of the arrangement, nor would he say how much McDonald's earned from such charges.
McDonald's hopes the free Internet could encourage customers to hang around during down times between meals, providing a captive audience that may buy some of the chain's McCafe line of coffee drinks. The chain also plans to begin selling items like frappes and smoothies by mid-2010 that aim to appeal to customers during the snacking hours that could get a lift from greater traffic.