Copyright 2004 San Antonio Express-News

San Antonio Express-News (Texas)

February 26, 2004, Thursday, METRO

Time Warner Cable is installing wireless fidelity — or Wi-Fi — transmitters in San Antonio so users of its Road Runner cable modem service can surf the Internet at fast speeds while they wait for an oil change or sit by the pool of their apartment complex.

The city's largest cable provider has installed its new Speed Zone transmitters in a handful of San Antonio businesses, including Rivercenter mall, and will increase the number to at least 100 by year-end, officials announced Wednesday.

Time Warner will charge businesses such as hotels, auto dealerships and restaurants $150 a month to install and maintain transmitters at their locations, said Jeff Henry, marketing vice president for the company.

Road Runner subscribers can access them for free and surf the Internet at speeds comparable to those available via cable modem service at home. Nonsubscribers must use a credit card or prepaid card to buy access.

Unlike some companies offering Wi-Fi, Time Warner expects to build revenues by charging stores for its transmitters rather than the consumers who access them, Henry said.

"We don't think we'll need to rely on people entering a credit card number for this to be successful," he said.

Phone and cable companies that offer fast Internet access via cable modem or DSL (digital subscriber line) are expanding their Wi-Fi offerings to hang onto current subscribers and attract new ones.

Meanwhile, businesses from hotels to coffee shops are using Wi-Fi to provide a perk to business travelers and tech-savvy customers.

San Antonio-based SBC Communications Inc., Time Warner's main high-speed Internet competitor here, last August said it will install 20,000 Wi-Fi transmitters across its territory.