Comcast Using Free Wi-Fi To Keep You From Switching To FiOS

Comcast is testing WiFi service at about 120 NJ Transit rail stations in an effort to retain broadband customers who might otherwise be tempted to switch to FiOS. Will it work?

Verizon doesn’t offer a WiFi service associated with FiOS, which is why cable companies are exploring the option as a way to retain customers, said Doug Williams, an analyst at Forrester Research, a Massachusetts-based technology research firm.

“Certainly, where Verizon has deployed its FiOS, cable companies are looking to step up their game and compete at a higher level,” Williams said.

Is free Wi-Fi a decent enough perk to keep you from switching?

Comcast, Cablevision turn to WiFi in effort to retain customers [Star-Ledger]
(Photo:diaper)

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  1. Erwos says:

    Sorry, but we switched to FiOS from Comcast a couple weeks back. No regrets – connection is stable and fast, and the HD feeds look a touch better, too. Better price, too.

    If I want data on the go, I’ll just use my phone’s 3G connection – which is only $15 a month anyways.

    • WhatStockMarket?_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @Erwos: Same here. Only had two service interruptions in all the time I have had them, and one was a problem uploading to their servers, and the other happened while I was gone from home and cleared itself up before I knew it. I only found out by checking my logs.

      Wait till they try to get you back by promising such things as “free 911″. [consumerist.com]

    • TVarmy says:

      @Erwos: Comcast does need to improve their network more than anything. It’s hard to advertise stability and ability to maintain speeds, but that’s what people now associate them with. They expanded really rapidly, but did not build up the network to support modern users, expecting people would use $40-60 16-22mbps accounts for just light browsing and email.

    • dohtem says:

      @Erwos: You’re lucky. I wish I had FiOS where I live. Comcast is the only high speed option in these here parts.

  2. plyhard13 says:

    The only thing that would make me stay with Comcast is either a dramatic change to the way they conduct business or completely free service…which would make me tolerate their unbelievably bad customer service.

    • daub815 says:

      @plyhard13: Agreed! I cannot wait until FIOS comes to my apartment complex. I am forced to use Comcast since there are no other options.

    • TVarmy says:

      @plyhard13: Yeah, they need to price their service proportionate to the quality of FIOS, or as close to that as possible.

      Either drop the rates dramatically (although that’d then flood their network and make their service even more slow and intermittent), upgrade the network to be a reliable, fast service that can compete with the low tiers of FIOS, or set up a new pricing scheme.

      What I’d like to see is a system that compensates people for throttling and/or outages and slow speed. The people who are really heavy users are the ones most apt to jump ship to Fios, as they notice the slowdowns the most and have been historically alienated by Comcast (bittorrent throttling, bandwidth caps, speeds that rarely reach even 3/4’s the peak speeds advertised). This might be something more like a regulation from the government to a utility than a corporate decision, but we’d be paying them proportionate to their merits rather than an empty promise.

  3. ScottRose says:

    If they were offering WiFi on the trains, that could be a huge benefit.

    On the platform though? You’ve got 10 minutes before the train comes and no place to sit down.

    • JustThatGuy3 says:

      @ScottRose:

      Don’t think laptop, think iPhone.

      • textilesdiva says:

        @JustThatGuy3: Why should we be thinking iphone?

        Because everyone has one? Nah, that’s not why. At least, it shouldn’t be.

        • JustThatGuy3 says:

          @textilesdiva:

          Well, that and similar devices are a lot of what they’re targeting. And they’re a heckuva lot faster on WiFi than they are on AT&T 3G.

          • textilesdiva says:

            @JustThatGuy3: Oh, so you’re cool with comcast putting more stock in some customer’s opinions than those of others? And using someone’s gadget preferences as a guide on who to cater to?

            If they’d suck less overall, this would not be as big an issue.

            I can only assume you’re trolling, since your initial response to everyone is “Think [hot brand name item]!”. Enjoy your buffet.

            • JustThatGuy3 says:

              @textilesdiva:

              I used iPhone as the best-known example, but any WiFi-enabled PDA (Blackberries, etc.) qualifies.

              As to who to cater to, I’d hope that Comcast spends their investment dollars catering to the most valuable customers who are going to make them the most money.

      • Spero says:

        @JustThatGuy3: Why would you think iPhone when you have internet service on that already?

      • ScottRose says:

        @JustThatGuy3:

        I know the iPhone, iPod touch, and lots of other hand-held devices have WiFi nowadays. But I don’t think the ability to use those for a few minutes in the morning (there’s no value in the evening when commuters are running for their cars) on a WiFi network will keep dissatisfied customers with Comcast.

        Plus in most cases the reason for using those devices on a high-speed connection is to download content. But when the train is comming “any second now”, it’s a bad idea to start a download.

        And as those guys said above, for iPhone, Blackberry, and other smartphone users, there is no real benefit because most people will already have data plans anyway, and email delivery is already a non-issue.

        I was a LIRR commuter for a long time (until recently) and I think Cablevision offers WiFi at some stations. I never cared to look into it, as my Blackberry and tethered laptop took care of all my internet access needs.

        • JustThatGuy3 says:

          @ScottRose:

          Cablevision now has WiFi at every station, and by mid-2010, they’ll have it everywhere in their footprint. Free if you’re a cable modem customer.

  4. XBL: Legend xKWx (Kyle) says:

    Yeah my brother and I just got FiOS in the Towson area and it is soooo much better than Comcast. Great channels, great internet connection, even when running an xbox 360 and two computers at once. If you have the option to change to FiOS, do it!

    • Herbz says:

      @Kyle:
      If you go like 5 minutes away from me, Verizon Fios is available. Where I live, sadly it is not.
      I WISH we had fios. I would switch in an instant, because comcast is the only high-speed offering where I am. Throttling is not fun, and the HD/SD signals are bad.

  5. Joeb5 says:

    ATT dsl has a big wifi network as well.

  6. ADismalScience says:

    FiOS was an unmitigated disaster when I tried it; it went down after a day and didn’t come up for a week, at which time the marriage was over. It was then my pleasure to deal with months of Verizon hell when they accused me of failing to mail in my equipment and threatened to send inaccurate bills to collections. Took forever to get that all straightened out.

    Everyone has a horror story; there’s mine with FiOS. There are analogues for every provider. By contrast, my Comcast experience has been stellar, both in terms of general service and the customer service I’ve dealt with. It almost doesn’t feel icky to shill for them.

    This pilot program is sweet, considering I take those trains. Suppose I could give it a try and write it up…

    • Sabbadeus says:

      @ADismalScience:

      If you have had a stellar experience with Comcast, I applaud you good Sir. I know that it exists, but in the portion that I work for, I get to see all of the problems that don’t get resolved for months on end and have no control over it. The joys of being glorified data entry.

      • Nick1693 says:

        @Sabbadeus: I’ve had nothing but excellent customer service up here in Northern MA. Any connection problem I have is caused by my cheap Belkin router, so I just restart it and I’m good for a few days.

    • rfjson says:

      @ADismalScience: my Sylar senses tell me you’re lying. *slices your head open*

  7. Sabbadeus says:

    We’re talking about Comcast here. I won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, I know better. Mostly because I work for them.

  8. b01000100 says:

    Please Verizon, bring FiOS to Columbus, OH…

  9. Papercutninja says:

    OH MY GOD I TAKE THOSE TRAINS!!! I’m going to see if i can connect my iPod touch tomorrow…

  10. G_Money21 says:

    This does nothing. NJ Transit is a commuter line, people show up 5 minutes before there train is scheduled to arrive. Its not like the stations are set up like Grand Central or Penn Station where there you can find yourself sitting around for an amtrak train.

    Now, if comcast decides to build out free wifi along the North East Corridor (NJ Transit busist line) and offer it free for comcast subscribers, then they may be on to something.

    • TVarmy says:

      @G_Money21: Actually, a couple of the stations service several varieties of train (Amtrak, NJ Transit, regional rail from adjacent states…).

      What I don’t get is if it’s free for Comcast customers, who might not even know their username and password offhand, or free for everyone, where it’s just advertising. And since most people won’t be sitting around long at the station, it had better work well and connect/login quickly on smartphones.

    • sciencegeek says:

      @G_Money21: Actually, Penn Station is an NJTransit station (as well as LIRR and Amtrak). You may not have noticed the NJT part of it because the place is a horrible warren of tunnels and twisty passages full of anxious people trying to catch commuter trains.

      I commuted on the NYC-Trenton line for a year and if there had been wifi on the trains or along the train lines, it would have been a much better year. Yes, I would have paid for wifi access on the train.

  11. Papa Midnight says:

    No, and even if I thought about it, I bet it counts against your cap.

  12. G-Dog says:

    HOLD ON! STOP THE BUS!

    Is this story suggesting that competition benefits cunsumers? What kind of fantasy world is this?

  13. Saboth says:

    I really wish we had an alternative to Comcast where I live. My friend at work has it, and we compare notes about how lagged gameplay is during primetime hours. We’re not sure if they are throttling service, or just have too many users on at once, but the lag in video games has gotten unbearable. Several times while watching streamed movies from Netflix, my movie pauses, and it says “download speed has slowed, video quality will be adjusted”. Not sure why I am paying $50 a month for this crap….

    • ComcastBonnie says:

      @Saboth: that doesn’t sound cool at all. could you send me ping and traceroute results to bonnie_smalley@cable.comcast.com ? i’d love to take a peek at all of this for you!

      • Cyberxion101 says:

        @ComcastBonnie: You wanna take a look at mine too while you’re at it Bonnie? I’m having much the same problems in my neck of the woods.

        See, Comcast sent me an e-mail touting how awesome online game-play is, but I’ve experienced nothing but lag when I’ve played. And like Saboth, I can’t make the most of my Netflix sub because while a given video may run alright for the first ten minutes, I invariably get hit with the same message, and the video will take forever to load, with the video quality taking a huge hit in the process.

        The strange thing is that in both cases, I can check my connection speed and not find anything that should be causing trouble of the magnitude that I am experiencing. My internet speed only seems to be effected when I’m playing online or viewing streaming video, which makes me wonder if I’m being throttled. Windows updates download quickly, after all. And for more than 50 bucks a month for internet service alone, I too must wonder why it’s not up to the task.

        Honestly, between those issues, the horrible digital channel line-up, the abysmally sparse On-Demand selection that features almost no HD content, I’m finding it tougher and tougher to justify paying the 126 dollars Comcasts asks of me every month. Especially as I payed quite a bit less in Colorado and got substantially more for the money.

      • Saboth says:

        @ComcastBonnie:

        I’ll see what I can do! Thanks.

    • TheMonkII says:

      @Saboth:
      Fear not, I forsee those bottled up networks getting relief very soon :)

  14. G_Money21 says:

    FIOS IS A SUPERIOR PRODUCT TO COMCAST. They know it, everyone who has switched knows it. You should have heard the crap they were spewing when i called to cancel. I am unfortunatley moving to a new home where FIOS is not available, there I will be calling up DirectTV for their services.

  15. Yurei says:

    No. Once you have fios, you never go back.

  16. Gann says:

    Here in Dallas, the TRE has free wifi for everybody – on the trains, but not at the stations – and it’s pretty awesome.

    On an unrelated note, I will never willingly use Comcast ever again.

  17. PeteyNice says:

    Am I missing something here? Free WiFi is better than paid WiFi but when I lived in NJ and took the train noone gets there more than 5-10 minutes before the train arrives and even though most of that time is spent buying tickets from those dopey machines. I can’t imagine pulling out my laptop even if the connection was free.

    Free WiFi *on the train* if it was reliable would be something else, but at the station? FiOS every day.

    • JustThatGuy3 says:

      @PeteyNice:
      Think iPhone on the platform.

      • mergatroy6 says:

        @JustThatGuy3: Cablevision rolled this out to Long Island a few months ago. Every train platform and most of the major roads in Nassau County. They recently expanded into NJ as well. It has been a big hit and FiOS really isn’t hurting their cable business according to the 4th quarter report I saw last week.

        Here is the original article from when they started free Wi-FI. [www.cablerant.com]

      • Cyberxion101 says:

        @JustThatGuy3: Or don’t, as has been discussed above.

        • JustThatGuy3 says:

          @Cyberxion101:

          Or do. Performance is radically better on a WiFi connection with a 10-20Mbps backhaul than it would be on AT&T’s 3G network.

          And no, not everybody has an iPhone, but WiFi-enabled devices are certainly growing in popularity.

  18. Jozef says:

    I’ve been with Comcast 4 years now, and I’m one of the silent majority that never had any problems – technical, billing or others. I run a Web server through their residential connection, and spend lots of time on-line (even though I’m not a bandwidth hog – most of my time is spent in telnet). The connection never failed me. However, I’ve been looking for a different broadband/TV combo ever since Comcast dropped History Channel from analog cable, so if I found one I liked I’d switch regardless what free services Comcast offered.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Jozef:

      I agree. I actually canceled every Verizon service I once had and switched over to the Comcast Triple Play due to dreadful customer service from Verizon. Comcast has been nothing short of fantastic for me. Now, I would consider trying FIOS if they ever got around to putting it in my area, but service would not be a factor as much as getting away from the Comcast bandwidth caps.

  19. Ezra Ekman says:

    The moment FiOS becomes available in my area, I’m all over it. There’s no substitute for blazing fast speeds, reliability and a lack of bandwidth caps. Perks like free WIFI are nice, but frankly, they’re just perks. I don’t count on free WIFI because you become dependent on being at a specific location; go somewhere else, and it won’t work.

    That said, I’m glad that AT&T offers free WIFI, as a part of their DSL packages, at most Starbucks in California. Keeps me from having to fill up a Starbucks coffee card once a month, but I’d be fine with doing that if I had FiOS. I also have data service tethered through my phone as a slower (but still useful) backup option.

    Then again, I depend on a fast connection for my profession, which is web design and development. Other folks who aren’t as concerned with having a connection that’s always available might not want to spend as much money.

    • GrandizerGo says:

      @Ezra Ekman: Amen, I live in Boston and they still can’t tell me when it will be available…
      I didn’t fall for the Comcast net though, I am very happy with my 3Mbps DSL.
      And I get that speed since I am less than 1800 ft from the station…

      • Ezra Ekman says:

        @GrandizerGo: That’s precisely why I’ve got DSL. I was on ISDN when it was the fastest non-business-class line available (i.e. not a T1 or faster), then upgraded to DSL when first came out and was $250 to install and $250 per month. Then when cable providers began offering broadband, there was that nasty “everyone in your neighborhood will slow down your connection” issue that kept me away.

        Those problems mostly went away when cable companies learned that they just had to keep capacity up with demand. I eventually gave cable a shot, and from then on I used to swear by cable. But unfortunately, with the average consumer becoming more technical these days, the old stereotypes seem to be coming back into play, and now I’m back on DSL again. It’s just the most reliable option until FiOS becomes available.

        *sigh*

  20. Anonymous says:

    FIOS is not available, where I live. In fact, DSL isn’t available. Basically, Comcast has a monopoly, with the exception of some sort of satellite internet access.

    I would definitely want Comcast to offer free wi-fi or some way for me to get internet access, other than through the cable connected to my home. Why not? As it is, I’m presently paying for Comcast at home and an AT&T data plan, on my mobile phone.

    Sure, Comcast sucks. Then again, so does AT&T. And Verizon. Come on, who are we kidding? These ossified corporations with their outdated business models are stiffling innovation and nickel-and-diming us to death. But, who among us is going to pull the plug on our internet access, at thsi point?

  21. Yankees368 says:

    Ugh, wifi. Big deal. Cablevision has been rolling out wifi across Long Island for quite some time now. I do not know of anyone who cares, or uses it. Anyone who wants access on the go that badly just uses a phone or an aircard.

  22. jeffbone says:

    Perhaps if Comcast would put more effort into basic customer service and good network management, they wouldn’t have to rely on niche-service gimmicks to retain customers.

  23. Rachacha says:

    I Have FiOS and Love it. Would NEVER go back to Comcast. The one thing however that I wish Verizon would work on is teh STBs. About once a month, I need to unpluf/reset the STBs and/or the Network interface for their On Demand and Program guide. The system has improved from the time that I first switched to FiOS, and I hope that Verizon continues to improve the situation, but it is the one (minor) dark cloud for FiOS.

  24. tc4b says:

    I saw the words ‘Comcast’ and ‘Will it work?’ near each other on the screen. Is this a trick question?

  25. richcreamerybutter says:

    Is anyone else thoroughly creeped out by Comcast’s latest commercial?

  26. toddkravos says:

    have any of you seen the new comcast commercial?

    it looks like a bad acid trip.

    time warner and/or ATT DSL are the only games in my immediate area (CLE,OH)

    even if comcast were available in this area, i wouldn’t get their service. or lack of service as one of the previous commenters mentioned…

  27. nato0519 says:

    You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to communistcast.

  28. raincntry says:

    I would go without internet or any other form of communication if Comcast were my only choice. Fool me once, shame on you…I won’t get fooled again.

  29. AstraBabble says:

    I left Comcast for Verizon, but not for FIOS. I am now the proud user of a 1Mb DSL connection because comcast was too damn expensive. We are cutting back and have found that we don’t need all that bandwidth. It was nice, but it wasn’t necessary. I wonder how many other former comcast customers are just downgrading.

    • theblackdog says:

      @AstraBabble: I’m guessing you probably only pay $30 a month too, I wish Verizon DSL would offer me that, but since I bought over a year ago, I pay $43 a month.

      Current Customer FTL!

  30. Hoss says:

    It would be more helpful if cable companies learned to gain customer base by using good ol’ price competition. Like many locations, we have three cable choices in my area (Comcast, verizon FIOS and RCN) plus of course the satellite options. In all three cable examples the pricing model is basically the same. If one of them jumped from the pricing collusion scheme and offered a much cheaper alternative, they would naturally get a large chunk of the business. How many of us can continue to afford a few hundred dollars a month on cable products??

  31. rfjson says:

    I don’t care if Comcast cures cancer. I’ll never go back to their products.

  32. Michael Hyland says:

    There’s all this nonsense about how ‘amazing’ FIOS is my area (NY) — but we have time warner cable, which I am currently enjoying an advertised / clocked 5Mps download speed. Verizon’s extra cost, ‘Power Level’ 3Mbps just doesn’t live up to the hype.

    • invisiblenemies says:

      @Michael Hyland: The 3Mbps connection you are speaking of is DSL – not FIOS. FIOS generally doesn’t offer internet connection speeds of less than 10Mbps. As a FiOS rep, most people I sell to choose the 20Mbps option. Some markets enjoy a 50 & 100Mbps offer. Unfortunately, my home & office are currently set up with Comcast – the only game in town right now. Ugh. I cannot wait until FiOS is available in my neighborhood.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure I understand (though I am quite sleep deprived today from recently moving).

    I had FiOS at my last house, and it had wireless built into the FiOS router that they gave me. Worked great and speeds were amazing.

    If they’re implying you can’t get wireless FiOS at your house, I’m confused.

    If they’re implying you can’t get wireless FiOS at the train station – who cares? How many end users are really going to notice that it’s Comcast providing the train station wi-fi? And of those who do, how many of them will really have their decision at their house influenced by this random thing?

    Forgive me if I’m being dense. I truly don’t get the point of this. Would love it if someone could explain.

  34. runchadrun says:

    We switched from the equally-sucktastic Time Warner in Socal to FIOS about a month ago. No problems, no outages, nothing. Our Internet speed is 20/5, while we were lucky to get 3/1 with TWC and lucky to get any connection at all with VZ DSL. We have many times more HD channels. TWC’s response isn’t to improve their service but to run ads scaring people about how FiOS, AT&T’s Uverse, and satellite have all these scary problems, none of which have materialized.

    The best part of FiOS is that you don’t even notice that it’s there. It just works.

  35. ExtraCelestial says:

    Nope. I already get free WiFi from the neighbors. Thanks though.

  36. Anonymous says:

    In the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia Comcast has a monopoly on both cable and broadband service. A monopoly they exploit to the hilt to rip customers off.
    I’ve been battling the abusive Comcast monopoly here to no avail. I’ve dropped their Cable TV service and kept just a broadband package until another provider comes along.
    No way FIOS can possibly be as bad as Comcast!!
    Comcast likes to advertise broadband speeds they simply can’t and don’t deliver and I’ve proved that last summer.
    First chance I get to completely dump Comcast I will!!

  37. 0chilly says:

    comcast is my only option for broadband internet. if FIOS or DSL was available, i’d use it.

  38. orlo says:

    Why don’t they try competing? DOCSIS 3.0 was supposed to roll out last year.

  39. quizmasterchris says:

    Comcast bought off Philadelphia and PA politicians, who pulled the plug on the wireless Philadelphia project that would have crushed Comcast as an internet provider.

    Great news though: FiOS is FINALLY coming to Philadelphia despite the Comcast attempt to shut down City Council voting on the matter!

    Die, bastards, DIE! ;) LOL *wink*

  40. bluewyvern says:

    It’s so hard not to click on a Liz Lemon quote. I had to work hard to remember that I don’t have Comcast or FIOS and the poll doesn’t even apply to me.

    Are you sure that the intrinsic allure of one of your poll options hasn’t skewed the results?

  41. valen says:

    AT&T has been running this promotion for at least a year with their DSL service. With a DSL account, you can get unlimited free wireless access at any AT&T hotspot. I would assume that this promotion would also apply to their fiber service, U-Verse.

  42. FLConsumer says:

    FWIW, Comcast is seeking out similar deals with large venues. One of my clients, a sports arena, was recently contacted by Comcast about something similar. I don’t know the entire details yet, especially if that’ll mean I’ll be turning off the free public wifi.

  43. majortom1029 says:

    I am a cablevision customer and if they use the same equipmewnt that cablevision is using it could be a selling point.

    Cablevision is installing wifi in its whole footprint. I have used it after moving to my appartment for a couple of days while waiting for my scheduled install. (well cablevision also has boost which is 30/5 with web and email servers allowed and their ports open )

    I hope for everybody elses sake comcast does more copying of cablevision.

  44. NICU says:

    No. The only way I’m sticking with cable (once FiOS TV comes to my area) is if they have a better price. Their decades of monopolies have allowed them to become lazy and expensive. Some competition is exactly what we need.

  45. glitterpig says:

    When I had Verizon DSL, they used to shut off my Internet connection every Friday afternoon and not turn it back on until Monday morning. All Comcast has to do is suck less than that, and they keep my business.

    (Unfortunately. The whole reason we’d switched to DSL in the first place was Comcast screwing us over, but not as badly as Verizon wound up doing. I wish there was REAL broadband choice in the US.)