Comcast, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable have entered into an agreement under the umbrella of Cable WiFi to allow their customers to roam on each other’s Wi-Fi networks.
Over the years, US cable companies have been expanding their Wi-Fi networks by setting up public Wi-Fi hotspots in train stations and other public spaces. Recently, Comcast announced that the new XFINITY wireless access points provided to home subscribers will automatically create a community Wi-Fi hotspot that allows outsiders to use Wi-Fi, although the company has clarified that the subscriber will not see his home network slow down. Neither will the outsider be granted access to the subscriber’s home network. A subscriber can opt out, but the default on the new access points is for the “community Wi-Fi” option to be turned on.
Until now, the problem with this setup was that only Comcast subscribers could access Comcast “community Wi-Fi” networks. With the recent launch of the Cable WiFi Alliance, subscribers of the four other cable companies mentioned above will have access as well to Comcast’s community Wi-Fi networks and vice-versa. This solves the problem of the existence of silos of cable Wi-Fi networks, each accessible only to a cable company’s subscribers.
In the telecom world, we have long been used to roaming agreements. A person who has a France Telecom ADSL or fiber subscription can access other telecom companies’ Wi-Fi networks because of roaming agreements among the carriers. I have a Boingo account and I can access most public Wi-Fi networks in Europe and Asia, especially those in hotels and airports, because of roaming agreements between Boingo and the operators.
I am glad to see that cable companies are following this example. Now, all we need is for cable companies and telcos to have roaming agreements and we’ll be pretty close to having Wi-Fi access everywhere.
I recommend you read Marguerite Reardon’s CNET article entitled “Comcast expands new Wi-Fi network with new ‘neighborhood’ initiative.”