time warner business classTime Warner Cable said yesterday that it will offer a free WiFi hotspot to any of its business customers throughout its serving area – a move that would seem to have strong appeal to typical cable company business customers. A video about the company’s hotspot offering features a beauty parlor and two restaurants – the kinds of small businesses that are cable companies’ bread and butter and that have customers who would appreciate having WiFi access from the business location.

“It’s all about keeping his customers happy and in their seats,” says the video narrator about one of the restaurant owners.

Time Warner Cable Free WiFi Hotspots
A Time Warner Cable Business Class spokesman said the company will provide a cable modem for the hotspot that will be separate from modems supporting the customer’s internal business operations and will have a separate connection to the network.

The offering also includes a self-service management portal that business owners can use to configure the service to, for example, require a password or to put a limit on how long a customer can remain connected.

In addition to potentially enhancing business customer loyalty, Time Warner Cable gets something else from the offering. Business patrons who are qualified Time Warner Cable broadband customers get free unlimited WiFi access, as do qualified customers of other cable companies participating in the Cable WiFi initiative.

That initiative enables customers of one cable company to use another cable company’s public WiFi network. The Cable WiFi alliance has 250,000 hotspots, including 35,000 operated by Time Warner Cable.

The major cable companies don’t operate cellular networks and have been pushing WiFi as an alternative. Time Warner Csble’s new offering is an excellent way to expand the company’s own public WiFi network by positioning the hotspots as a service for the owners of the businesses where the hotspots will be installed.

Some examples of the potentially win/win nature of the offering: TWCBC provides signage and marketing materials that business customers can use to promote their on-site WiFi. Additionally, the location will be included in TWCBC’s on-line WiFi Finder app and on an on-line map.

In yesterday’s announcement about the new hotspot offering, TWCBC cited recent research showing that 80% of small businesses believe their customers expect free WiFi but only 43% of businesses offer free WiFi.