Comcast wants to use your router to help start their national Wi-Fi network

June 14, 2014
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Comcast plans to turn wireless Internet routers in private homes around the country into publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots. Comcast will offer Wi-Fi from roughly 8 million hotspots in 19 of the largest U.S. cities. About 3 million of the hotspots were expected to be active by this week.

The gateway generates a second encrypted network signal named “xfinitywifi” visible to anyone with Web-enabled device within range. None of the activity on the “xfinitywifi” network will counted against the homeowners account.

Arris TM722 Comcast DOCSIS 3.0 Modem - Box from Best Buy Trevacz

Many look at this move as Comcast’s next step towards becoming a wireless carrier and fighting it out with AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Last year, when Comcast sold wireless spectrum to Verizon, it was agreed that Comcast could access Verizon’s wireless network therefore allowing callers to go between the Wi-Fi networks and Verizon’s cellular network.

Comcast says less than 1 percent of customers in other regions have chosen to opt out of the service. Chances are good that the reason for this low number is due to Comcast forcing customers to opt out of this program if they don’t want their modems to be used. Additionally, it costs Comcast basically nothing as they now have the customers to pay for the rollout.

One of my concerns is whether Comcast is positive about how the modems will be affected.

As PCWorld notes:

This may be a legitimate concern, especially for areas that have lots of apartment buildings and multi-tenant dwellings within close proximity of one another. In my building, just about every apartment has a Wi-Fi router. Those routers are transmitting on the same channels for their 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals, leading to RF competition. Now, if you take that scenario and give everyone in that apartment another wireless network to broadcast, those networks are competing, too, and adding to interference. Comcast’s FAQ about Xfinity’s hotspots doesn’t go into any details about channels and bands, but the company should be clear about how adding these hotspot networks affects the performance of existing WLANs—especially in business use.

My next concern deals with security.

As Gizmodo asks:

Do you really want to share a connection with someone you don’t know doing whatever they do on the internet through your connection? What if they’re downloading ‘Game of Thrones’ illegally? What if they’re really into child porn? What if they’re hacking into the Pentagon?

Or TechCrunch:

The bottom line is that Comcast is using your house/apartment as a corporate resource. They’re using your electricity. They’re using your Internet connection (although they claim they aren’t) and they’re opening up your private browsing to potential hackers. While Comcast will claim that these two streams are independent, there is nothing to stop a dedicated hacker from figuring out how to snoop data passing through the router. There is also nothing to stop someone from downloading illicit material, software, and other junk from your hotspot and then reporting you for theft or worse. Again, it’s all ostensibly secure, but, like all things, it really isn’t.

Comcast priority graphic

At the end of the day, Comcast has promised that someone’s home network won’t be slowed down or hacked with a good password.

Why would someone not trust Comcast?

Those who own their modems won’t be affected.

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