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iPhone users get free Wi-Fi access from AT&T

AT&T says iPhone users can now access the company's 17,000 Wi-Fi hot spots for free. (This time it's true.)

Free Wi-Fi for Apple's iPhone users is finally available from AT&T.

After two false starts, this time the notice posted on AT&T's Web site is accurate. The company is indeed allowing all iPhone users to access its 17,000 Wi-Fi hot spots around the country for free.

Earlier this year, the company inadvertently published information on its Web site telling customers that they could access AT&T's hot spots for free. But this time it's true. I double-checked with AT&T's public relations team myself.

The free Wi-Fi will be available wherever AT&T offers a Wi-Fi hot spot, which includes several restaurant chains, airports, and Starbucks coffee shops.

iPhone subscribers supposedly received text messages on Wednesday alerting them to the new perk. But it appears that not everyone received the message. For example, I'm an iPhone user, and I didn't get a text message from AT&T, nor did a number of my CNET colleagues who also have iPhones. In fact, in my informal poll of the newsroom's iPhone users, not one person said they received this mysterious text message.

Mark Siegel, AT&T's spokesman, confirmed messages were sent to subscribers. But he had no explanation as to why none of the CNET people in my informal survey received this alert.

AT&T has already been offering free Wi-Fi to its broadband subscribers since last year. And in January it announced it would offer its LapTop Connect customers, who use a 3G wireless Aircard, free Wi-Fi access.