Qwest is preparing to automatically give its customers free unlimited access to Wi-Fi across the country.

Public Wi-Fi hotspot networks have become a competitive must-have. Several MSOs are similarly offering Wi-Fi. For example, Bright House Networks runs a network of Wi-Fi hotspots, Cablevision is expanding its hotspot network and Comcast has embarked on building a Wi-Fi network, as well.

Verizon is negotiating Wi-Fi access too, according to The Wall Street Journal (story here; registration required).

Qwest accomplished the feat by negotiating access to AT&T’s approximately 17,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. That includes hotspots at Starbucks and McDonald’s.

Qwest did not offer any details on the structure of its arrangement with AT&T.

Qwest sponsored a customer survey, one result of which was that Qwest customers wanted wider Internet access. Dan Yost, executive vice president for Qwest’s Mass Markets Organization, said: “Our study showed that nearly half of all respondents get ‘antsy,’ in about an hour, if they can’t check e-mail, social networking sites or instant messaging. Our free solution keeps Qwest customers connected.”

All current and new Qwest high-speed internet customers are automatically eligible and can look for the “QwestWiFi” service set identifier or SSID, which will be rolling out to venues over the next couple of weeks.

More Broadband Direct 05/07/09:
•  Data, telephony help boost Charter's Q1 results
•  Cablevision thrives in Q1
•  Time Warner Cable picks OpenTV's ad management platform
•  DirecTV Group's Q1 profit falls 46%
•  Build your own hotspot with Verizon device
•  Qwest to offer free Wi-Fi
•  Cisco earnings fall 21%, beat expectations
•  SCTE announces chapter award winners for last year
•  Intel, Microsoft, Dell band together for WiGig
•  Embarq's Q1 profit falls 18%
•  More cell phone users dropping landlines
•  Broadband Briefs for 05/07/09