Cable's Wi-Fi ambitions are about much more than customer retention

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Although members of the CableWiFi Alliance have said repeatedly that the primary incentive behind their growing Wi-Fi hotspot portfolio (which now stands at 250,000 nationwide) is to complement their customers' broadband service in the home and differentiate themselves from their telecommunications competitors, there are signs that a bigger agenda is afloat.

At the recent Cable Show, Wi-Fi was part of nearly every discussion. NCTA Chairman Michael Powell positioned the cable industry's Wi-Fi footprint as a competitor to wireless carriers when he spoke with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. And Chairman Wheeler agreed, noting: "Wi-Fi offers new opportunities in broadband and high speed data as well as voice service."

Likewise, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts claimed that his company is the "biggest wireless provider in the country already," and said that the convergence of Wi-Fi with the cable network is a powerful tool that will be very important in the future. "It distinguishes us from the competitors and gives us a better business," he said.

Cable operators have invested a lot of time and money into growing their Wi-Fi networks. It's only a matter of time before they come up with a way to monetize this important asset.

Cable's Wi-Fi ambitions are about much more than customer retention