Cablevision subscribers embraced the cable operator's free Wi-Fi service to the tune of 50 million user sessions last year, which was a 500 percent increase over 2009's 8 million sessions.

"Usage of Optimum Wi-Fi exploded in 2010, as our network continued to expand along with the exploding popularity of Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as the iPad and smartphones, and particularly given the increasing demands on overburdened cellular data networks," said Kevin Curran, Cablevision's senior vice president of wireless development. "We have built a data fast lane for Optimum customers that now extends to a variety of major venues and indoor locations, as well – from the Nassau Coliseum to local coffee shops and eateries."

Optimum Wi-Fi is free for Cablevision's data customers who can access Optimum Wi-Fi using portable Wi-Fi-enabled devices, like the iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and laptop computers, using a simple sign-on screen. Once a customer logs into the service by entering their Optimum ID and password, the network delivers speeds of up to 3 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream. Cablevision said customers were using Optimum Wi-Fi to access the Internet more than 6 millions times per month, on average.

Cablevision provided the update on its Optimum Wi-Fi service usage during the last day of its "11 Days of Optimum Value to Kick Off 2011" promotional campaign. The "Optimum Value" campaign, which launched on Jan. 5, highlighted some of the benefits to subscribe to Cablevision's triple-play services.

Cablevision first launched its Wi-Fi network, which it said is the largest and most advanced Wi-Fi network in the nation, in 2008 in Long Island. Cablevision hasn't said how much it has spent on the Wi-Fi network, but the cost was reportedly $300 million in the early going.

Today, Optimum Wi-Fi is available in tens of thousands of access points across the company's tri-state service area. Optimum Wi-Fi is broadly available in high-traffic and commercial locations like downtown areas, parks and other locations across Cablevision's New York, New Jersey and Connecticut service areas.

The network also includes outdoor availability at almost all of the Long Island Railroad and Metro North railroad platforms and parking lots in Cablevision's service area.

In the fall, Cablevision turned Nassau Coliseum in Long Island into a Wi-Fi hotspot for concert attendees and sports fans.

Cablevision also has a deal in place to share Wi-Fi access with Time Warner Cable and Comcast's hotspots in the area for additional, out-of-footprint coverage.