From the earliest of days of public WiFi I have always felt the biggest players that would benefit from it were the cable operators. Seems I was right as Cablevision is proving how in the contiguous areas around New York City that their WiFi cloud is attracting users. And, they are all their already existing customers as Om Malik points out at GigaOm.
By continuing to serve their customers outside of the home, Cablevision has extended their connection and kept the customers online. They are using Cablevision service and over time will have a mobile phone running some type of mobile VoIP and I predict mobile video as long as the user is the CableVision customer. Once they have reached a certain point of saturation and predictable usage levels by their customers, my feeling is CableVision will then open the network up to day pass type roamers who find themselves in the CableVision footprint.
This is a lesson that others like Comcast should look at. Deploying WiFi right is far less expensive than 4G and can go just about anywhere there's IP connectivity. No expensive spectrum licenses, and no real challenges on where to build the towers. What's more, just about every PC and smartphone has WiFi now, so the addressable audience is already there, as there is no need for anything new. Lastly, consumer behavior is such that the market is already used to using WiFi, so the leap to use it in public is not that far.
When the book is written on why pubic WiFi failed, CableVision won't be including, as for them, it will already be a rip, roarin' success.