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Comcast sees the Wi-Fi hotspots as a promotional tool in its rivalry with AT&T. They will be a convenience for visitors and locals alike.

Comcast launched more than 350 Wi-Fi hotspots across metro Atlanta on Thursday and said thousands more are coming locally and across the nation.

It’s the first time the cable TV, phone and Internet service provider is making free Wi-Fi hotspots available to its Xfinity customers, and non-customers for a limited time, the company said.

Free Wi-Fi hotspots allow people who have mobile devices or computers to check email, surf the Internet and download data without costly charges. Restaurants, hotels and other businesses offer them to keep customers coming back and to attract new ones.

“People want to be as productive as they can be wherever they go,” said Tino Mantella, president of the Technology Association of Georgia, and that is fueling the creation of more Wi-Fi hotspots. TAG said Atlanta consistently ranks high among major markets in Wi-Fi access.

Wi-Fi hotspots are not only tapped by smartphones and tablets, but also e-readers, game consoles and smart appliances, including TVs and refrigerators.

AT&T, a major Comcast competitor, has nearly 400 Wi-Fi hotspots around metro Atlanta and nearly 900 statewide, according to spokesman Lance Skelly.

Comcast’s launch includes hotpots at Piedmont and Chastain parks, the campuses of Georgia Tech, Emory, Georgia State universities and the Atlanta University Center, which includes Spelman, Morehouse and Clark Atlanta University.

Comcast said its Internet WiFi access is free to Xfinity customers and it will be free to non-customers from Friday through July 4. After July 4, non-Xfinity Internet customers can try Xfinity WiFi via two complimentary 60-minute sessions per month. Beyond that usage, non-Comcast customers will pay $2.95 per hour, $7.95 per day or $19.95 per week.

To access the hotspots, Comcast said users will have to get an Xfinity WiFi app, which is available online at Google Play for Android phones and at iTunes for phones powered by Apple’s iOS operating system.

Comcast has other hotspots in Philadelphia, Chicago, New Jersey, the greater Boston region and in California. ___

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Tags: atlanta, wi-fi

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