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ISP Competition: Testing Time Warner Cable’s Public Wi-Fi Access

ANewDomain.net — A welcome bit of infrastructure deployment competition seems to be brewing between the telephone and cable companies. At the Mobile World Congress late last month, Philips and Ericsson announced Wi-Fi-ready streetlights and a coalition of five cable companies that formed to roll out open Wi-Fi hotspots.

Logos of the cable companies offering WiFi access

Image credit: Larry Press

I am a Time Warner Cable (TWC) customer, so I decided to try it out. I checked in my neighborhood and found a Wi-Fi hotspot at a school two blocks from my house. I drove over, parked on the street in front of the school, and logged in using my TWC account credentials. I had a solid, five-bar connection (whatever that means).

I ran Speedtest, which showed 16 ms ping time, 40.6 Mbps download, and 5.06 Mbps upload — considerably faster than the service at home.

Ping time and upload and download speeds from the street in front of the school

Our phones are able to switch seamlessly between Wi-Fi and the cellular network (see, for example, Republic Wireless). I do not want to be bothered knowing which I am using at any time — I just want my phone to pick the best connection available given my ISP terms and the application I am running.

I’ve beaten up on TWC and other ISPs for exploiting their non-competitive markets in many blog posts. It is only fair that I congratulate them on providing a meaningful competitive service.

Today the five-ISP coalition lists 200,000 hotspots in its database. How many will they have in five years? Might the cable companies have outsmarted the phone companies in splitting up mobile and landline access?

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Larry Press.

Based in Los Angeles, Larry Press is a founding senior editor covering tech here at aNewDomain.net. He’s also a professor of information systems at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Check his Google+ profile — he’s at +Larry Press — or email him at Larry@aNewDomain.net.

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  • Ant Pruitt

    I believe i’ve seen these pop up on my mobile device, but I’m a cord cutter so I can’t test. Interesting to see how high those speeds were for you.

    -RAP, II

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