Cable companies agree to nationwide Wi-Fi roaming deal

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The country's largest cable companies have banded together to create a nationwide Wi-Fi roaming network for their customers, giving their subscribers free access to 50,000 hotspots that the companies collectively own.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks said they will create a new network name, "CableWiFi," for subscribers to use when accessing the Wi-Fi hotspots outside their home market. The companies said that over the next few months the "CableWiFi" network name will be added by each of the cable companies to their branded Wi-Fi hotspots. In the coming months, users will be able to have their devices auto-connect to the Internet when located in any of the "CableWiFi" hotspots.

Currently, the companies offer 50,000 Wi-Fi hotspots located in New York City and the surrounding Tri-State area, Los Angeles, Tampa, Orlando, and Philadelphia. The companies said they plan to continue to grow the number of Wi-Fi hotspots and expand into several additional cities.

The deal is not without precedent. In early 2010, Cablevision, Comcast and Time Warner Cable struck a deal allowing their customers in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Connecticut to access W-iFi hotspots offered by each operator in these areas.

The deal comes amid an FCC review of Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) planned $3.9 billion purchase of AWS spectrum from the cable companies, excluding Cablevision. In December, Verizon agreed to pay $3.6 billion for the nationwide AWS spectrum licenses held by SpectrumCo, a joint venture of cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House. Separately, Verizon said it will buy Cox Communication's 20 MHz of AWS spectrum covering 28 million POPs for $315 million.

Interestingly, Verizon Wireless might at some point also offer access to the cable companies' joint Wi-Fi network. Part of Verizon's spectrum purchase includes an agreement that it be allowed to resell cable services. A Verizon spokesperson declined to comment on the topic.

For more:
- see this release
- see this CNET article
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article (sub. req.)

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