In an effort to keep/acquire new broadband customers, Comcast is testing Wi-Fi service at about 120 New Jersey Transit rail stations, according to DSLReports. The trial is for existing customers only and is designed to gauge user interest, spokeswoman Mary Nell Westbrook said, adding that no formal announcement of the service has been made.
The move comes after Cablevision launched its Optimum Wi-Fi program throughout the tristate area last fall. The two companies are collaborating to extend the reach of their wireless networks, enabling Comcast customers to access their operator's Wi-Fi at train stations in Cablevision territory and vice versa.
Although the two companies worked together on technical tests, the Comcast and Cablevision services in New Jersey will remain entirely separate, though there will apparently be some gear cohabitation. "A Comcast customer cannot access any of the Optimum Wi-Fi Hot Zones," notes Westbrook. "For the trial, our services are both available at all of the locations that are included--generally New Jersey Transit commuter rail stations--but the two services are offered separately."
Rail stations with free Wi-Fi include those along the Northeast Corridor, Morris, Essex, Montclair-Boonton, Main-Bergen County, the North Jersey Coast, Pascack Valley, and Raritan Valley lines. Coverage areas at each station include platforms and parking lots, but do not extend to the trains.
Comcast is still hashing out marketing specifics about the trial, so we won't know what non-subscriber pricing or usage restrictions would be.
Cablevision, which will announce its New Jersey Wi-Fi program this week, is spending about $300 million over a two-year period to deploy the service across its footprint in the tristate area, said spokesman Jim Maiella. Comcast declined to release the cost of its Wi-Fi trial.
For most commuters, it appears to be a well-kept secret. I asked a few Jersey people I knew who are Comcast subscribers and not one person was aware of the free service. Frankly, they didn't care; they would've been more impressed if the service was available during an actual commute on the train. This is to say, these particular individuals were planning to drop their Comcast service this year anyway.
It's possible that cable companies won't begin charging customers for their Wi-Fi service at first, but with as many resources and money used for these projects, it's highly unlikely. Just remember to read the fine print.
After all is said and done, will this be a decent enough perk to keep you from switching?