New York area cable operator Cablevision flips switch for high-traffic areas of Long Island: They're announcing Thursday that they've turned on the initial phases of their network in Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as at commuter rail platforms and station parking lots throughout Long Island. The service offers 1.5 Mbps in each direction, the company claims. Detailed site maps for their previous much smaller activated areas are up at their Wi-Fi information site, and I expect to see these updated soon.
Cablevision will ultimately spend about $300m in building a Wi-Fi network exclusively for its customers; 2.4m of these customers qualify to use the service at no cost. There's no pay as you go option, no monthly subscription; you're either a subscriber of theirs, or not. It's a fascinating strategy, because they're leveraging all these dollars as a tool to crack its competitors in the market. With increasing competition from telephone companies that are offering television service, cable companies need to compete on voice, data, and video, as well as well as on mobile offerings. When the network is built, Cablevision can conceivably offer Wi-Fi telephony service, too.
I'm dying to know what the reduced churn rate and increase in subscriptions will be in six months. Given that hotspot access costs $10 to $30 per month depending on the network, Cablevision is delivering something of value. It's great honey for new subscribers and glue to keep current subscribers.
The company is claiming that with this latest activation, they have the largest Wi-Fi network for consumers in the U.S. They're likely correct. The only other public access network of scale that's being used by large numbers is in Minneapolis, and based on what I know about both networks, Cablevision probably deserves bragging rights. The network in Taipei, Taiwan, is likely still larger, but I haven't heard any usage number in nearly two years; at that point, subscription rates were 10 percent of what had been projected.