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Comcast Business Plots New Offering

Following a string of consumer-facing WiFi strategies, Comcast’s fast-growing business services unit is looking to drive a few more dollars in the door by way of a new “amenity” WiFi product under development.

This emerging service, to be tailored to suit the needs of smaller businesses, is coming into focus as offering WiFi access to patrons of restaurants, beauty parlors and dentist offices shifts from a differentiator to a “table stakes” component, Mike Tighe, executive director of data services for Comcast Business, said.

Comcast Business hasn’t set a launch date, but the amenity WiFi product will pave the way for the MSO’s commercial customers to offer free Internet access via their own branded service set identifi ers (SSIDs). The new product will also give business owners the ability to set usage rules, security parameters and other terms of service.

The amenity WiFi service, likely to be offered free to a business’ visiting patrons, will also carve out separate bandwidth so it does not affect or otherwise intermingle with the data that Comcast Business customers use to conduct their own day-today business operations.

Recent survey data amplifies how important WiFi is becoming to smaller commercial properties. A Comcast-commissioned “Small Business WiFi Survey” conducted by Bredin Research, which polled 602 principals and IT decision-makers, found that WiFi is viewed as equally or more effective at making patrons feel welcome than other types of amenities, such as magazines (94%), community bulletin boards (91%), candy (90%) and even water (86%).

A similar survey released last week by Time Warner Cable Business Class also found that 80% of small business owners surveyed believe customers expect free WiFi.