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Cablevision gunning for Wi-Fi contract in N.Y.

Thu, 09/03/2009 - 8:45am
The Associated Press

BETHPAGE, N.Y. (AP) – Cablevision Systems Corp. is gunning for a state contract to build a high-speed wireless Internet network along two train lines in the New York metro area.

The diversified cable TV operator said Wednesday it submitted an expression of interest to the state of New York to provide Wi-Fi access for the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. These trains connect New York City to Long Island and Connecticut.

Cablevision is already building Wi-Fi hotspots, and the coverage area has a 96 percent overlap with the proposal from New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Cablevision thus far has been putting Wi-Fi equipment on train stations and parking lots, not on the trains themselves. The MTA contract will let Cablevision add Wi-Fi to the trains, so commuters can access the Internet while the train is moving.

Cablevision said it will carry the cost of building the network for the state. The company's own Wi-Fi rollout is expected to cost $300 million when it's completed next year. The cable operator did not immediately provide the cost of the MTA contract.

Cablevision is in heated competition with Verizon Communications Inc., which is rolling out its fiber-optic FiOS TV and Internet service in New York.

In July, Verizon launched its own free Wi-Fi hotspots for home broadband customers across the country in airports and other public places. But the service only works on computers using Windows Vista or XP. Phones, iPods and Macintosh computers with Wi-Fi can't access the service.

Also, those on Verizon's cheapest DSL and FiOS Internet plans won't get free Wi-Fi.

Shares of Bethpage, N.Y.-based Cablevision rose 24 cents to close at $22.61 on Wednesday.

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