I am going to make the case that businesses should get in the habit of offering free wifi to their customers / guests or anyone entering their place of business. Why? It's just good customer service.
Almost everyone has some sort of smart phone. Those users are stuck with an ever shrinking mobile data plan and an ever increasing bill. Giving them free, secure wireless for their smartphone is just as important as a water cooler, cable tv or a magazine.
We assist hotel owners with large complex wifi networks. Hotels give away wireless internet with a room rental as a bonus for guests. Good wifi service will keep that guest happy and most likely a repeat customer. Business owners need repeat customers and free wifi will help get those repeat customers.
Let's say you're an auto repair business with a waiting room. A customer could watch TV (most likely a boring cable news channel) or read an outdated, beat up magazine about hunting or fantasy football. With a smart phone and free wifi access, they can check and send email and browse the web. They can stay in touch family, customers and the news. While the customer's tire change is being done, they won't mind the wait. They're being productive.
Let's say you're a restaurant owner. While the meal is being prepared, the customer is on their wifi. Yes, they're being productive, if they choose. Maybe that customer will order dessert to prolong their stay. If the food is good, they come back.
What about a hair salon? daycare center? veterinary clinic? bar? supermarket? The applications for free wifi are endless. The benefits are clear.
What is the cost for the business owner? Not much. Most businesses already have high speed internet. A good quality, long range access point can be had for no more than $200. Add a router / firewall to segment the access point from the rest of the network (data security). If you want to be 100% secure, a separate DSL line can be had for about $40 per month. Yes $500 a year for a invaluable service to your customer.
So how are you taking care of your 'connected customer'?