NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- When you're the guy who gives the Internet away to millions of New Yorkers, you learn a thing or two about the cost of freedom.
"Bandwidth is like money," says Henry Quintin, the CEO of Sky-Packets, the Melville, N.Y.-based wireless networking company. "You can never have enough."
His networking shop specializes in helping cities and towns, local business districts and companies roll out free Wi-Fi on unheard-of scales. Been to Bryant Park, Midtown or Babylon on Long Island and logged onto your iPad? Quintin makes all that happen.
And this wireless expert is of the firm opinion that the hottest play in wireless is not even a wireless company. It's a cable company. In fact, the cable companies. Quintin says Time Warner (TWX), Comcast (CMCSA), Cablevision (CVC) and the rest are major comers in wireless."The phone companies are not really that smart," Quintin says. "But cable companies, they talk to each to other. And when they move, they're smart." Quintin says cable operators are quietly, but powerfully, taking a unique spin on the time-worn Internet "freemium" model. You know, that's the play in which Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB) and the rest give away everyone else's content to get paid. The cable companies are tipping that mode, giving away Web access to get paid. The idea is to drive Google, Amazon and Facebook users back to their cable TV, in-house newspaper holdings and other digital properties. The free cable Wi-Fi play works like this: Starting at the end of May, the five major cable companies -- the three I mentioned above plus Bright House Networks and Cox -- announced they would allow for so-called cooperative roaming among 50,000 cable company-hosted hotspots across the country. If you pay for cable -- say, with Cablevision in New York -- and you can see a CableWiFi Wi-Fi network ID on your phone, tablet or PC -- say, in Time Warner's territory in Maine -- you can log in the Web. For no extra cost.
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