NYC Cable Cos. Let Wi-Fi Roam and Users Get More Free Hotspots

The three cable providers in the New York City metro area have banded together to create a Wi-Fi network that any of the companies’ customers can use, essentially turning the city into a cluster of hotspots for all those folks toting smartphones and iPads (s aapl). Cablevision, Time Warner Cable (s twc) and Comcast (s cmcsa) have signed roaming agreements, so customers of one can get on the Wi-Fi network owned by one of the others for free.
Last month, Om mentioned that Time Warner Cable was offering Wi-Fi service to its customers in partnership with Cablevision. The announcement today adds Comcast and formalizes the idea of the three as roaming partners anywhere the members have Wi-Fi networks in the NYC area.  Back in January I pondered this exact sort of relationship developing among ISPs:

So will ISPs take the consumer love of ubiquitous broadband and carriers’ need for offload to the next level and create the equivalent of roaming agreements for Wi-Fi? Greg Williams, the new SVP of corporate development at Bel Air Networks, thinks they might. …He wonders if carriers will negotiate with each other and fixed-line ISPs to get access for their wireless subscribers, especially in congested cities such as New York or San Francisco.

At the time I was skeptical because I couldn’t see the big carriers — namely AT&T (s T) and Verizon (s VZ) — doing anything to radically cut into their data revenue (GigaOM Pro sub req’d) from their 3G networks, but having cable providers offer such a service makes sense, especially given that the cable guys right now are also up against Verizon FiOS in some of their markets. The ability to offer free Wi-Fi while on the go (plus paid mobile broadband service through the partnership with Clearwire) makes their broadband product portfolio competitive with Verizon (which signed a Wi-Fi agreement of its own), and is decreasing churn. And all of this makes for happy Wi-Fi users.
Thumbnail image courtesy Flickr user Adventures in Librarianship.