The three cable providers in the New York City metro area have banded together to create a Wi-Fi network that any of the companies’ customers can use, essentially turning the city into a cluster of hotspots for all those folks toting smartphones and iPads. Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Comcast have signed roaming agreements, so customers of one can get on the Wi-Fi network owned by one of the others for free.
Last month, Om mentioned that Time Warner Cable was offering Wi-Fi service to its customers in partnership with Cablevision. The announcement today adds Comcast and formalizes the idea of the three as roaming partners anywhere the members have Wi-Fi networks in the NYC area. Back in January I pondered this exact sort of relationship developing among ISPs:
So will ISPs take the consumer love of ubiquitous broadband and carriers’ need for offload to the next level and create the equivalent of roaming agreements for Wi-Fi? Greg Williams, the new SVP of corporate development at Bel Air Networks, thinks they might. …He wonders if carriers will negotiate with each other and fixed-line ISPs to get access for their wireless subscribers, especially in congested cities such as New York or San Francisco.
At the time I was skeptical because I couldn’t see the big carriers — namely AT&T and Verizon — doing anything to radically cut into their data revenue (GigaOM Pro sub req’d) from their 3G networks, but having cable providers offer such a service makes sense, especially given that the cable guys right now are also up against Verizon FiOS in some of their markets. The ability to offer free Wi-Fi while on the go (plus paid mobile broadband service through the partnership with Clearwire) makes their broadband product portfolio competitive with Verizon (which signed a Wi-Fi agreement of its own), and is decreasing churn. And all of this makes for happy Wi-Fi users.