Five of the largest cable companies in the US have agreed to allow all their users to use any of the Wi-Fi hotspots the five companies own.
All together, the participating companies, Comcast, Warner Cable, Cablevision, Bright House, and Cox, have 50,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. This means that customers of any one of the participating cable companies can travel to a location in which Wi-Fi is provided by one of the other companies and use it at no extra cost. The shared Wi-Fi hotspots will be labeled ‘CableWifi.’ Most of the hotspots are in the Northeast US, but there will also be CableWifi hotspots in locations such as Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Tampa. The number of locations is expected to grow over time.
The agreement was announced today at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s Cable Show in Boston, Mass.
Not everyone is thrilled with the cooperation between the cable companies. Harold Feld, the legal director of the public consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, warned that this would, in essence, be the cable companies cross-selling each others services. He suggested the agreement will create an anti-competitive environment. Feld also said that the cooperating cable companies want to include Verizon in their agreement, and ” Wi-fi should be the competitor to wireless, but it won’t be. Wi-Fi offers the opportunity for these companies to compete with wireless providers such as Verizon wireless, using Wi-Fi roaming to build a rival footprint that could offer a cheaper alternative to consumers who find their iPads and smartphones constrained by aggressive bandwidth caps.”