Heading out for some breakfast and a cup of coffee? Excellent. For quality food and drink, your choices are wide, wide open. But if what you really want is some sweet free Wi-Fi, you may want to skip that chocolate chip bagel from Panera and head across the street to Starbucks for a frappuccino instead.
Mashable points the way to a new report that takes a look at how good (or bad) free and public Wi-Fi in the U.S. is right now. The data comes from OpenSignal, an app company that crowdsources information about mobile data signals.
Starbucks’s shift to Google wi-fi, away from their old partnership with AT&T, has drastically improved internet connection speeds in the coffee shop chain, OpenSignal found. Starbucks locations using the Google connection average download speeds around 9 Mbps, where the old AT&T connections are closer to 5 Mbps.
That Google boost also puts Starbucks far ahead of the competition. Of the food joints OpenSignal users tested, McDonald’s had the next-highest network speeds at a little over 4 Mbps. Donut shops Tim Horton’s and Dunkin’ Donuts both lagged at less than 2 Mbps, and poor Panera barely hit 1 Mbps, making it the slowest network connection in the OpenSignal report.
Definitely-not-food-joints Best Buy, Target, and Lowe’s were also all on the list. All three performed less well than McDonald’s, but Best Buy at least came close. Target and Lowe’s languish down near the bottom of the rankings, on par with the donut shops.
Despite the huge disparity in public wi-fi hotspots, OpenSignal points out, the average wi-fi connection is still faster than the average 4G LTE connection.
The report also reminds us that “free” rarely is, with a look at hotel room wi-fi speed tests. They found a distinct correlation between price paid for the room and internet speed available. Surprise, surprise: the cheaper the room, the crappier the connection. Pay up for the nicer hotel, and you can probably get that Netflix stream important client file to work a lot better.