iPhone Owners: AT&T Building a Wi-Fi Hotzone in Times Square for You

“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” Mahatma Gandhi.

I included that quote because I was bemused by AT&T’s announcement that it’s (s T) building a giant Wi-Fi hotspot in Times Square as a way to offload traffic from its pokey and overcrowded 3G network.

Times Square may not be the only massive, public hotspot effort by Ma Bell — if the pilot works then AT&T plans to roll out in three other locations. I bet those places will be in New York and San Francisco, where AT&T performs like a 300-pound man running up a 60-degree incline. In 2008 AT&T bought Wayport for $275 million and with it 21,000 hotspots in places such as the Starbucks coffee chain, but the carrier never effectively used that network to boost its Wi-Fi capabilities.

AT&T, for as long as I can remember, was what I would call a Wi-Fi hater: using its immense lobbying powers to kill municipal Wi-Fi and other such efforts. Its executives often joked about Wi-Fi not being a carrier-class technology. Good to see them learning from those they mocked.

But they should also be reaching out to cable companies, which have Wi-Fi initiatives of their own and lease capacity on their Wi-Fi networks in order to accommodate their 3G customers. Cablevision (s CVC) in Long Island, N.Y. would be a good place to start.

Related GigaOM Pro Content (sub req’d): How AT&T Will Deal With iPad Data Traffic

Image courtesy Flickr user Adventures in Librarianship.