Where’s the Money in Cable WiFi?

The term "TV Anywhere" or "TV Everywhere" followed the explosion of tablet device sales, circa 2009/2010.  Since then, cable companies (who by the way are also internet providers) have been under the gun to provide video content to their subscribers outside of the home.  2015 estimates that as much as 70% of all bandwidth is video streaming. Surprisingly (not so surprisingly), the vast majority of all video streaming is Netflix.

Source: Chris Kocks, Pure Integration, March 17, 2016 Wireless Technology Forum

Something that initially started as providing TV content outside of the home has turned into providing WiFi services outside of the home.

Say Hello to CableWiFi.

"CableWiFi® is a wireless network created through a collaboration of U.S. Cable & Internet Service Providers including Bright House Networks, Cox Communications, Optimum, Time Warner Cable, and XFINITY. It allows each other’s eligible high-speed Internet customers free access to a collective network of more than 400,000 WiFi hotspots across the nation."

To this day, I still haven't seen a true offering of the TV Anywhere that was envisioned 6 or more years ago. You still can't watch the shows recorded on your DVR because those shows are recorded to a hard drive in your home. Slingbox was an early innovator to solve this problem, but they were an equipment manufacturer and not a service provider. The cable companies provide their customers with apps to watch a limited amount of on-demand content. Knowing the limited streaming video options available today, it should be no surprise that that most streaming video bandwidth is Netflix. It's ironic that a project started out as TV Anywhere, but has turned into WiFi everywhere watching Netflix and checking Facebook.

Where's the money in CableWiFi? Answers from the panel varied from table stakes for customer retention, collect data about customers and locations, to ad revenue.

The Importance of WiFi Everywhere

How important is WiFi to the average Joe?

Big Data Collection

Let's look at the angle of cable companies collecting customer data about WiFi usage for a moment. My first stop was to review the cable company's privacy policy. I found that Comcast collects "some anonymous information about page views, search locations and general app usage."  Location data with page views could be a powerful tool (even anonymously) to understand traffic flow and provide data to sell ads such as billboards, signs, or even help retailers find ideal places to open or close stores.

Rising Cable Rates

Cable companies are notorious for raising rates and citing rising costs from content providers as the reason.

  • Will offering 400K + WiFi hotspots appease cable customers?
  • Will cord cutters come back to cable for WiFi or modify their eating and shopping habits to visit retailers offering free WiFi?
  • How about Millennials who've never paid for cable?

I hope I've provided some insights and points to ponder.

Check out my YouTube video below to view the March 17, 2016, Wireless Technology Forum panel discussion on CableWiFi.