The fine print is now available on Verizon's free Wi-Fi deal for its broadband customers: Only laptop Windows XP/Vista (32-bit only) users need apply. Which seems insane to me, but it's also in line with Verizon's remarkable micro-management of its users and usage. The "how to get it" page explaining how to obtain free Wi-Fi notes, "Verizon Wi-Fi is not available for PDAs, phones, desktop PCs or Macs."
I can reason that the PDA and phone issue is that the company hasn't figured out which smartphones and others to add the service to and whether to charge for it. AT&T offers iPhone and some BlackBerry owners free Wi-Fi on its home network of 20,000 hotspots (mostly McDonald's and Starbucks locations); Verizon, however, operates no Wi-Fi network, so additional users mean additional costs. Smartphone users are extremely heavy Wi-Fi data consumers, and if Verizon's deal with Boingo isn't flat-rate per user, then that might explain the hesitation.
The limit to laptops is sort of ridiculous. Desktop PC owners won't easily be able to access laptops, and you have to do be a broadband Verizon customer already, so it's not like you'd be using a Wi-Fi hotspot as your primary Internet connection, would you? There's a story here that's not being told.
The lack of Mac support is simply absurd. Boingo supports Windows and Mac OS X, and Verizon has long had excellent software and tech support for its 3G hardware for Mac OS X.
But wait! There's more. As I noted in a revised version of the story yesterday, IDG News Service noted and a spot check reveals that Verizon isn't offering McDonald's stores, which Boingo resells from AT&T's network. The reason there might be that the McDonald's contract is organized differently. Wayport signed up McD years ago, and structured its arrangement to offer flat-rate resale fees per user in a network, instead of session fees. With that ostensibly still in place even after AT&T's acquisition of Wayport, Verizon might not want to pay the associated fees to offer McDonald's access. This plus Verizon's awful hotspot finder rips some of the heart out of the ubiquity of Boingo's U.S. network.
Finally, Verizon limits this free offer to higher-tiered DSL and fiber (FiOS) subscribers. Existing 3 Mbps DSL or faster and 20 Mbps FiOS or faster customers are the only ones who qualify. Further, only new FiOS customers who buy 25 Mbps or faster connections will qualify.
This is all shooting itself in the foot; penny wise, pound foolish. If you're going to make an extra add-on attractive, you can't dangle a bright shiny ball at all your customers, and then snatch it away from what's likely 25 to 40 percent of them, based on market research.