Is it me? I find a certain sense of irony in the recent deal announced between Starbucks and AT&T.

The deal Starbucks has struck with AT&T, nosing out its current Wi-Fi partner T-Mobile, will make Wi-Fi free for just about everybody. For starters, free Wi-Fi will be a new benny for AT&T DSL customers (that's 12 million subscribers). Starbucks cardholders will be entitled to two free hours a day of wireless connectivity, as well.

For the two or three people this doesn't include, there will still be a charge of $3.99 for two hours of access.

Industry watchers are already speculating this deal is going to put big time pressure on other businesses with hotspots, along with the other major broadband carriers and telcos to bundle in public Wi-Fi access with similar deals. If true, I say good. Free is my favorite four letter word.

I just find it amusing that Starbucks, a company that owes its success to brilliantly cultivating a high demand for four dollar cups of coffee where none had existed before, has just inked a deal that will likely cheapen Wi-Fi access at hotspots to virtually zero dollars.

The strategy is obvious and brilliant, of course. Two hours of free Wi-Fi is just enough time to sip down two decaf cafe mochas, delight in a cranberry scone and pick up a CD of Sheryl Crow's favorite songs (because it sounded so good while I was checking my email in the big purple overstuffed chair).

Tell me again how the Wi-Fi is free?