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Long Island Wi-Fi pioneer Craig Plunkett dies at 56

Craig Plunkett, a former Cablevision executive who played

Craig Plunkett, a former Cablevision executive who played a major role in delivering Wi-Fi hot spots around Long Island, died Sunday. He was 56. Photo Credit: Meru Networks

Craig Plunkett, a former Cablevision executive who played a major role in delivering Wi-Fi hot spots around Long Island, died Sunday at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan of pancreatic cancer. He was 56.

Plunkett was a co-founder of Fire Island Wireless, an internet service provider that delivered fixed broadband and Wi-Fi hot spots to the barrier islands. He was the managing principal of East Northport-based CEDX Corp., which set up Wi-Fi points in the region, including on Hampton Jitney buses.

He later acquired and managed a Wi-Fi provider to cafes. Plunkett was often quoted in Newsday and other regional publications as an expert as hot spot technology took off in the early 2000s.

He joined Cablevision in 2008 as vice president of wireless market development, and was tasked with further expanding Optimum hot spots throughout the region. 

But over the last 2½ years, he was best known for his public fight against pancreatic cancer. He routinely updated readers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on his latest chemotherapy and radiation treatments as well as scans at Memorial Sloan Kettering. He took to naming — and seeking to destroy — tumors, and used hashtags such as #GetAfterIt. His family said he was also inspired by Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL officer. Plunkett was motivated by Willink's messages about survival. Plunkett would later meet Willink at a podcast recording session in Manhattan.

He celebrated reaching goals, including surviving cancer for two years. Earlier this year he took videos of himself ice skating at Bryant Park in Manhattan. The lifelong New York Rangers fan previously played in a men’s league in Hauppauge with his brother, Terry Plunkett.

“Craig wanted to be useful to future pancreatic cancer patients,” said Jennifer Plunkett Skibins, his sister, who said Plunkett routinely participated in medical trials and used experimental medications under the watch of Dr. Kenneth Yu at Memorial Sloan Kettering. “He approached cancer as a battle. He was a warrior.” 

Plunkett, who grew up in Hicksville and Ronkonkoma and received a computer science degree from Fordham University, participated in last year’s Lustgarten Foundation walk at Jones Beach, a fundraiser for pancreatic cancer research. He had hoped to reach another long-term goal and participate in the event again this fall. The organization was created in 1998 in honor of Marc Lustgarten, the former vice chairman of Cablevision Systems and chairman of Madison Square Garden, who died of pancreatic cancer.

“We were saddened to hear about the passing of Craig Plunkett, an accomplished and dedicated executive who we were honored to have as part of the Cablevision family,” the Dolan family, the cable company's founding family, said in a statement. “Craig’s death from pancreatic cancer reminds us of why we continue to fight so hard to find a cure for this devastating disease.”

Plunkett also left a personal mark at Altice USA, the cable provider that acquired Cablevision in 2016. He was a project manager at Altice Business Services.

“Craig was a dear friend and colleague to many, and his kindness, positive spirit and determination will be greatly missed,” Altice USA said in a company statement. 

Plunkett is survived by his ex-wife, Emilia Lopez, children, Daniela and Alec Plunkett, father Donald Plunkett, stepmother Doreen Kelly, and siblings Christine Tallman and Jill Mattus in addition to Terry and Jennifer. He was predeceased by his mother, Patricia Cain.

A memorial is planned at 4 p.m. on Aug. 8, which would have been his 57th birthday, at Fire Island's Lighthouse Beach in Kismet. 

The Lustgarten Foundation said people can donate at lustgarten.org/donate and indicate the donation is "in memory of Craig Plunkett."

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