Cablevision Lights Up Wi-Fi on Long Island

Cablevision Systems went live last week with the first broad rollout of its metro Wi-Fi network in areas of Long Island, a service it is offering free for broadband customers as an enticement to stay plugged into cable.

In May, the operator said it would spend more than $300 million over the next two years to build out a Wi-Fi network throughout its metropolitan New York City service area.

The Cablevision Wi-Fi network is now operational — offering symmetrical access speeds of 1.5 Megabits per second — throughout commercial and high-traffic areas of Nassau County, in areas of Suffolk County and on Long Island Rail Road platforms and station parking lots across the island, the company said.

Cablevision chief operating officer Tom Rutledge claimed the operator has already built “the nation's largest and most advanced consumer Wi-Fi network.”

“We believe free and broadly available Wi-Fi access will become an important and popular enhancement for our Optimum Online customers,” Rutledge said in a prepared statement.

Any of the operator's 2.4 million Optimum Online customers can log in to the wireless network using a Wi-Fi-enabled device, such as a laptop computer or Apple iPhone, using their user ID and password, if they are in range of a Cablevision access point.

Cablevision is building the metro Wi-Fi mesh network with networking equipment from Cisco Systems and BelAir Networks.

The MSO's strategy to gear its wireless play around Wi-Fi — a technology in wide use among mobile PCs and devices — diverges from the one picked by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Those three cable operators in May formed a new joint venture with Sprint Nextel, Clearwire, Intel and Google to create a nationwide high-speed wireless network based on WiMax, a comparatively immature technology.

Cablevision has offered Wi-Fi service for several years in about 15 communities in its footprint, including areas of the Bronx, Long Island and Westchester County in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.