BOSTON — The opening day of this week’s National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention was marked by a flurry of new deals and a warning by the head of the industry trade group that government oversight of the Internet must be kept to a minimum.
Several major cable companies – including Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Cox – announced they are teaming up on an initiative that would allow their respective subscribers access to Wi-Fi in so-called public hot spots even if they are in an area not served by their local provider.
So, if a Time Warner Cable subscriber is traveling out of a town and in a region served by Comcast, that person could still access free wireless by logging in with CableWiFi. The catch is that users would have to already be a broadband subscriber and register to use the service.
More and more cable companies are offering their customers free Wi-Fi in public areas outside the home. The cable operators involved in this venture have more than 50,000 hot spots in their various footprints.
“This effort adds great value to our high-speed Internet customers by providing free wireless Internet access on all of their Wi-Fi enabled devices in our markets and additional areas across the country,” said Nomi Bergman, president of Bright House Networks, which has systems in Florida.
Comcast unveiled several other new endeavors at the trade show. The nation’s largest cable operator, which has more than 20 million subscribers, is showcasing an app that enables people to use motions and gestures as signals to control their televisions. Comcast has been working on making iPhones, iPads and other hand-held devices function as remote controls.
Now an iPhone can become a remote and its keypad can be used to search for content by title as part of Comcast’s X1 cloud-enabled television platform. The X1 platform stores movies and other content in a virtual file instead of in a cable box.
The service will launch first on Comcast’s Boston systems before it rolls out across the country.
Comcast also gave a demonstration of its new Project Dayview service, which can turn the television into a virtual planner, complete with traffic reports, meeting schedules, emails and, of course, what’s on television. The device interfaces across TV, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Additionally, Comcast said it had struck a deal to carry Outside Television – a cable network based on the outdoor sports magazine Outside – on several of its systems across the country, including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Portland and San Francisco. The network, created in 2010, will be placed on a specialty tier of sports and lifestyle channels on Comcast, company officials said.