Mediacom begins work on public Wi-Fi network, looks toward interoperability with Charter, Comcast

Mediacom is gearing up to roll out public Wi-Fi networks in select cities in Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Georgia and elsewhere, and is hoping to potentially support roaming onto the Wi-Fi networks of other providers like Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR), the company said.

Mediacom's public Wi-Fi effort stems from the company's announcement earlier this year that it would invest $1 billion over the next 3 years to upgrade and expand its network. The main element of that project is the company's "Project Gigabit" initiative, which the company described as a "wide-scale deployment of 1 gigabit per second broadband services to virtually all of the 3 million homes and businesses within the 1,500 communities located in Mediacom's 22 state footprint."

Mediacom is the nation's seventh largest cable company, and it ended the first quarter with 853,000 pay-TV customers and 1.1 million internet customers.

Also in announcing its $1 billion network upgrade plans earlier this year, Mediacom said that public Wi-Fi would be a major focus. Specifically, the company promised "deployment of community Wi-Fi access points throughout high-traffic commercial and public areas across Mediacom's national footprint."

According to a detailed report in Minnesota's Star Tribune, Mediacom is currently testing its public Wi-Fi efforts in Savage, Minnesota; Columbia, Missouri; Valdosta, Georgia; and elsewhere. The publication noted that, in Savage, Mediacom is offering 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi to all residents and full access to Mediacom subscribers.

Interestingly, in Savage, the Star Tribune reported that Mediacom's Wi-Fi efforts don't require city approval because of its franchise agreement there. However, the Savage City Council did ask for more details on the rollout. "I expect that when Mediacom comes back to the city we will have a better idea for what the community Wi-Fi program is and looks like," Savage's assistant city administrator, Brad Larson, told the Star Tribune.

Looking forward, Mediacom spokesman Thomas Larsen told the publication that the MSO hopes to team with the likes of Charter and Comcast to offer "interchangeable" Wi-Fi networks. "Our hope is to partner with those providers once we have our national Wi-Fi system up and running," Larsen said.

Comcast already operates around half a million public Wi-Fi hotspots around the country through its Xfinity brand. And Charter pledged to build 300,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots within four years of the closing of its purchase of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Already, Comcast is a member of the Cable WiFi Alliance that was created in 2012 to foster roaming among the public hotspots of participating cable providers.

For more:
- see this Star Tribune article

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