Verizon offers free Wi-Fi to consumer customers

Free Wi-Fi hotspots in the U.S. are now available to nine million Verizon residential broadband customers using many of the carrier's more expensive DSL or FiOS internet services plans, .

The expanded Wi-Fi service relies on Boingo Wireless access points located in 30,000 locations, including airports, hotels and coffee shops in the U.S. Not all 30,000 U.S. locations will be available, a Verizon spokesman said. He declined to elaborate on how many of the hotspots would be available, except to say the number is in the "thousands."

Ironically, some Verizon customers could be using AT&T hot spots for their free access. That's because Boingo's network is an aggregation of 120,000 hot spots offered by 160 carriers around the world. AT&T has about 7,500 hotspots in the U.S. in the Boingo group, said Christian Gunning, marketing director at Boingo.

Verizon for the last six years has provided free Wi-Fi access to Verizon business customers over Boingo, and has decided to extend the Boingo contract for another four years and expand the service to residential customers.

Existing Verizon broadband customers with 20Mbit/sec FiOS plans or 3Mbit/sec or 7Mbit/sec DSL plans will have free access at the Boingo hot spots. Only netbooks or laptops will have access for now, said Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe. Support for smartphones is expected at a future date.

Some analysts have speculated that Verizon is seeking the right to sell the Apple iPhone, which is sold exclusively in the U.S. by AT&T and works over AT&T hotspots. When asked whether the Verizon hot spot news could be linked to future iPhone plans, Rabe laughed and said, "I'm not talking about smartphones."