Verizon adds hotspots to consumer broadband

Subscribers to most plans will be able to access Boingo hotspots using PCs

Verizon Communications offered most of its wired broadband customers free access to Wi-Fi hotspots around the U.S. on Monday, supplementing its wireline offerings on the same day it announced a 5.2 percent drop in revenue from that business.

Subscribers to most Verizon DSL (digital subscriber line) and FiOS fiber-optic service plans will be able to use thousands of hotspots provided by Boingo Wireless in cafés, bookstores, hotels and other locations, according to Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe. Verizon said the service complements its recent offer of highly portable netbook computers to some broadband subscribers, though it does not work with Wi-Fi-enabled mobile phones. The service is available now.

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Most service providers have seen their wireline revenue stall or shrink in the past few quarters, partly as a result of customers giving up their landline phones to go wireless. Verizon said Monday its landline business suffered a 5.2 percent drop in revenue in the second quarter from the same period last year. The division's net income plunged to US$555 million from $1.1 billion a year earlier.

Boingo has approximately 20,000 hotspots nationwide. Verizon has offered business customers access to some of those hotspots previously, Rabe said, but this is the first time it has given consumer subscribers free access. Rival AT&T has included free hotspot access with its wired broadband accounts for a few years already, also working with Boingo. It allows customers to use any Wi-Fi device on the networks. There is a list of available hotspots online.

The Verizon service is available to new and existing users of the company's High-Speed Internet service plan with speeds up to 3Mb per second (Mbps) upstream and 768Kbps downstream, or plans with up to 7.1Mbps/768Kbps. It is available free to new FiOS customers with up-to-25Mbps/15Mbps service or better. Existing customers with up-to-20Mbps service or faster also get hotspot access free.

The offer is available to a majority of Verizon's wireline broadband customers, Rabe said. To use it, they will have to download a software client from Verizon.

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