Would You Like Wi-Fi with That?


This article reports that McDonalds will soon be offering Wi-Fi access in select cities as part of their "value meals." The next hour will cost $3. They're not the only ones:

Besides McDonald's, Internet surfers will also be able to tote their laptops to 400 U.S. Borders book stores, hundreds of hotels and a pair of U.S. airports where WiFi access will be available by summer, companies announced Monday.

Having Wi-Fi will only be a competitive advantage for McDonalds in the short-term. Let me illustrate why: You don't pick McDonalds over Wendy's because you like their toilets. You just expect that they'll have reasonably clean toilets in both places. Having clean toilets doesn't bring customers in, but having dirty toilets will drive some of them away. Same thing will happen to Wi-Fi. I predict that the price will go to $0 pretty quickly. As more places offer it, Wi-Fi will become a commodity and competition forces the price of commodities toward zero. Imagine, for example, if McDonalds decided to start charging for their toilets.

The article doesn't mention this, but the company that is making this possible in hotels is Utah's own STSN. STSN was founded by a couple of friends of mine: Eric Smith and Will West. They are the biggest supplier of broadband in hotels and are right now doing the largest roll-out of Wi-Fi ever in those same hotels. Will is still running STSN. Eric has moved on to his next gig: home automation.