Cablevision Systems, one of the biggest cable providers in the New York City metro area, announced that it's completed the first stage of a massive Wi-Fi network project called Optimum WiFi that will eventually cover the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area. The company says that its wireless networking equipment now covers a healthy section of Long Island, including the area around the various commuter rail stops. (You can find out where it's available on this Optimum WiFi Web page.) The free Wi-Fi service, with speeds up to 1.5Mbps, is only for Cablevision subscribers, who will be required to enter their used ID and password in order to access the network. (No doubt hacks for nonsubscribers to circumvent this are being developed as I type this.)
Given the competition cable companies like Cablevision are facing for Internet customers not only from telephone companies like Verizon (and its FiOS fiber-optic service) but also potentially from a cell phone provider like Sprint with its forthcoming WiMAX service, it's an interesting differentiator, though I'm not sure it'd be the major factor in my deciding whether to stay with Cablevision if FiOS came to town (a moot point, since I don't live in Cablevision country and Verizon still hasn't started offering FiOS where I live). Then again, if I were a subscriber who commuted to Manhattan everyday, having some Wi-Fi coverage to connect my laptop to the Internet (or surf faster on my Wi-Fi-enabled phone) would be a pretty nice bonus. Any Cablevision subscribers out there who have tried out the new wireless service want to let us know how it's working?