McDonald's restaurant chain announced Wednesday that from January 2010, it will begin offering free Wi-Fi in its stores in the U.S. and Canada.
A new deal with AT&T allows McDonald's to offer free wireless Internet access at 11,000 of the McDonald's 14,000 U.S. locations. It currently charges $2.95 for 2 hours of internet access.
The retail giant will use free Wi-Fi as a tool to encourage customers to stay in the restaurants between meals and hopefully buy McCafe coffee drinks and the new line of smoothies and frappes.
We're not just about hamburgers, said Dave Grooms, McDonald's CIO, in a statement to the AP. We are about convenience and all kinds of value. McDonald's is about value -- value in our food, value in our services. It's a natural fit.
The move by McDonald's, which offers a McCafe line of coffee drinks, is seen as a bid to increase competition with rival stores like Starbucks, which offers both free and paid-for wireless Internet options to customers.
Other chain stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders which have café's, also offer free Wi-Fi.
McDonald's share price is up 58 cents of 0.9 percent to $62.58 on the New York Stock Exchange in afternoon trading.