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The Fastest Public WiFi in the U.S. Can Be Found at Starbucks

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Yahoo Tech
Starbucks workers

(Associated Press)

It turns out those hipsters who spend hours at Starbucks gulping more WiFi than coffee have a pretty good reason to be doing so.

According to the folks at OpenSignal, which measures WiFi and cellular signal strength across the country, Starbucks offers the fastest free public WiFi among locations tested within the United States.

In its report, via Quartz, OpenSignal found that Starbucks, which recently began using in-store WiFi powered by Google, offered WiFi download speeds as fast as 9.01 Mbps (megabits per second). That’s faster than the average American’s 4G LTE connection, found on their phones, which topped out at 6.52 Mbps.

To put that in perspective, Netflix requires you to have a 0.5 Mbps connection speed to even use its service. To stream a standard-definition movie, you’ll need a connection with an average speed of 3 Mbps. Want to watch House of Cards in HD? That’ll require a connection running at 5 Mbps.

Surprisingly, McDonald’s also offers rather speedy download speeds, beating the likes of Tim Hortons, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Panera Bread with its average 4.18 Mbps download speeds. (The graph below shows the fastest WiFi speeds of only the most used public WiFi networks in America, so Starbucks is excluded.)

Bar chart showing data speeds


The Golden Arches’ WiFi even proved faster than Best Buy’s, which reached just 3.87 Mbps.

Meanwhile, if you’re heading on vacation and base your stay on your room’s WiFi speeds — and who doesn’t? — you might want to check into a Hilton.

OpenSignal found that the chain offers the fastest Internet speeds of the major hotel companies with an impressive 8.47 Mbps. In dead last? That would be Motel 6, with an average 1.29 Mbps. You also might want to check the recently launched HotelWifiTest.com, which sorts specific hotels based on their Internet speeds. As The New York Times noted last year, fast WiFi is becoming increasingly important for hotels, especially those catering to business travelers.

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to book a room at a Hilton with a Starbucks in the lobby.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley or on Google+ here.