Comcast to create extensive Wi-Fi network, by leveraging at-home routers

By on June 11, 2013, 11:00 AM
comcast, wi-fi, xfinity, hotspot, wi-fi sharing

Comcast, the nation’s third largest internet provider, is unveiling a new feature that promises to provide Wi-Fi internet access from almost anywhere in the world. The system involves tapping into the personal routers of Comcast users, creating millions of public access points for Xfinity subscribers, as well as guests.

According to ReadWrite, current subscribers can access the network by simply inputting their username and password. Those who are not members of the Xfinity service will still be given some leeway – guests will be allowed two free one-hour Wi-Fi sessions per month, with the option to purchase additional internet usage by the hour, month, or even the year. Comcast believes that the new “home-based neighbourhood hotspot initiative” will provide an inexpensive alternative to smartphone cell signals, which can sometimes lead to hefty phone bills.

Despite the apparent advantages, there are still some drawbacks with this plan. First off, the Wi-Fi sharing network will only be effective in areas where plenty of Comcast users reside. In places where the population is thin, you should expect spotty coverage at best.

The second concern is how Comcast is going to differentiate between the homeowner’s internet activity and that of an outside user. For example, if law enforcement uses IP addresses to identify those who download illegal content, could an innocent homeowner be tied to someone else’s unlawful behaviour?

In response to this question, Charlie Douglas, the Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Comcast, assured his customers that the networks would indeed be separate.

“Account holders are only responsible for content that flows over their own Wi-Fi hotspot, not the neighbourhood hotspot. Having two Wi-Fi signals is actually safer for customers because they won’t have to share their private network or passwords,” added Douglas. Not only has the public been assured that everything is going to be alright, but the Comcast team has actually been testing the system since last year. Tests are ongoing in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Northern Virginia, and Washington D.C.

This isn't the first time a company taps into residentail Wi-Fi to offer free and paid hotspots across cities. Spanish startup Fon has being doing the same for years, partnering with internet service providers like BT in the UK and SFR in France to embed the functionality on their routers. France’s Free Mobile also opened up more than 4 million home wireless networks last year to offer free Wi-Fi hotspots to its mobile phone customers.




User Comments: 21

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tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

N/a in the Southeast yet..

1 person liked this | Guest said:

So, is Comcast going to compensate the homeowner for the sharing the homeowner's WiFi bandwidth?

Guest said:

So what about those of us who bought our own modem and router? All I pay for is the actual line and quite frankly I don't want Comcast or any other company thinking they can use my hardware. At the very least they should be paying or offering to reduce service fees to customers. Would they like to rent my modem for the $12/mo they usually charge to do so?

mrcavooter mrcavooter said:

There's got to be a way to disable it. I like the direction they are going, just not the implementation of it.

David Tom said:

There's got to be a way to disable it. I like the direction they are going, just not the implementation of it.

Comcast explained that users would have the ability to opt out of the program if they wish. But since the default setting will originally be set to 'on', Comcast hopes that enough users will support the program to make it worthwhile.

Tanstar said:

So what about those of us who bought our own modem and router? All I pay for is the actual line and quite frankly I don't want Comcast or any other company thinking they can use my hardware. At the very least they should be paying or offering to reduce service fees to customers. Would they like to rent my modem for the $12/mo they usually charge to do so?

This. All the bandwidth my router puts out is for my use.

1 person liked this | p51d007 said:

But...but...but...it's good for the collective don't ya know.

Sorry, unless I get compensated for the bandwith that someone else uses,

I'd keep it turned off.

Chuck Cortes Chuck Cortes said:

So what about those of us who bought our own modem and router? All I pay for is the actual line and quite frankly I don't want Comcast or any other company thinking they can use my hardware. At the very least they should be paying or offering to reduce service fees to customers. Would they like to rent my modem for the $12/mo they usually charge to do so?

It would be logical to assume that if you have your own wifi hardware they can't use it. How could they? That would require them taking over your hardware as their own or force you to give it up for one of theirs. Doubtful that would happen if they already give you that freedom.

Chuck Cortes Chuck Cortes said:

There's got to be a way to disable it. I like the direction they are going, just not the implementation of it.

If you are knowledgeable enough disable wifi on the router and get your own router. Problem solved.

1 person liked this | Chuck Cortes Chuck Cortes said:

But...but...but...it's good for the collective don't ya know.

Sorry, unless I get compensated for the bandwith that someone else uses,

I'd keep it turned off.

Exactly, no mention on how this will affect out bandwidth. I am paying for higher bandwidth for a reason and its not to share it with other people.

David Tom said:

So, is Comcast going to compensate the homeowner for the sharing the homeowner's WiFi bandwidth?

Douglas mentioned that the company would cover the cost of the extra bandwidth, fortunately. He also said that the homeowner's internet speed shouldn't be vastly affected either, but there is still a little bit of uncertainty in this matter.

Chuck Cortes Chuck Cortes said:

Douglas mentioned that the company would cover the cost of the extra bandwidth, fortunately. He also said that the homeowner's internet speed shouldn't be vastly affected either, but there is still a little bit of uncertainty in this matter.

I wouldn't trust them as far as I can throw them. I would rather not, I am not that desperate for wifi that I would need to give access to my network in order to get it free in other places. There's just to much uncertainty and no trust.

Guest said:

So when I get a Notice in the mail saying I was downloading xyz movie and mp3s.Three(6) strikes might go by pretty fast.Get a knock on door about p0rn being sent from or to this said IP. When in fact you didn't have any thing to do with it.Oh! it must be that new wifi for all to use..It's not me sir.

When they throw out a IP isnt a person ,wifi for all might work ok..

soldier1969 soldier1969 said:

I'm fine with their top of the line 110mbs wired service for $110 a month. Have my own router but don't really need wifi as I have a great 4G LTE signal on cell service at home, getting 35mbs down 20 up with it.

Guest said:

I have had first hand experience of this type of service via British Telecom. I regularly set up routers for clients and the BT "Home Hub" includes "BT Fon" and "Openzone," both active by default.

It seemed like a good idea at the time but no one seems to really use it. I have to assume the main reason is that you have to give away your obligatory personal details/e-mail address in order to gain access.

It also has a nasty habit of attracting wayward laptops etc. I've been on quite a few jobs where someones laptop tries to repeatedly connect to these open networks when there's a perfectly good network in the clients home. Wifi pollution just about sums it up!

Not sure about the statement; "promises to provide Wi-Fi internet access from almost anywhere in the world."

Wow, you guys must have some pretty powerful routers for your Wifi signals to cross the oceans!!! Then again, everyone outside America already knows that when an American says "World" they really mean America, cos nowhere else matters!!!

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

I'm selfish when it comes to certain things. My plate of food, My clothing, and anything connected to my computer(s). No BUENO

JasAce said:

I've been a tech with Comcast for 2 years now. We were told the customers are being asked if they want to allow us to install a separate wireless router in their attic or top floor of their home to be this 'Xfinity hotspot' router. It's completely separate from the customers personal router or rented router from Comcast. The other question about bandwidth is legit, because we currently can only install 1 modem per house except for special circumstances. So running both routers from 1 modem will drag the customers personal speeds down it would seem while someone is connected to the hotspot. They are supposed to lower the customers bill if they opt in for this hotspot in their home, but I don't know if they are upping their internet speeds to better balance the strain of 2 routers on 1 modem now.

Tanstar said:

I've been a tech with Comcast for 2 years now. We were told the customers are being asked if they want to allow us to install a separate wireless router in their attic or top floor of their home to be this 'Xfinity hotspot' router. It's completely separate from the customers personal router or rented router from Comcast. The other question about bandwidth is legit, because we currently can only install 1 modem per house except for special circumstances. So running both routers from 1 modem will drag the customers personal speeds down it would seem while someone is connected to the hotspot. They are supposed to lower the customers bill if they opt in for this hotspot in their home, but I don't know if they are upping their internet speeds to better balance the strain of 2 routers on 1 modem now.

I'd be paying for the electricity for this second router too. Not much money, but mine. My taxes already spend my money on enough free stuff for others.

biohazedinc biohazedinc said:

Ok, great idea, wrong way to go at it. first off. Comcast speeds jump right now when it rains. (at least in my area) and they claim (QUOTE from the tech's) this is due to water in the line. now my reasoning is because they are to cheap to replace all analog lines that are still in the area. then with this I have had a wireless and (now) wired modem from them. there wireless blow but . they do not ground neither of there modems. they do not have one modem out there that has lasted me longer then 6months. the one I have now I had to ground in 3 spots. it is the only thing on the cable line and on a SP!

Ok now for as far as the wireless setup. why wont they just go to there nodes and set up there wifi there? This in return allows there plain to be a foot. Dose not take away from the customers line. dose not allow outside person to enter the customers wireless router! (trust me with in a month they will know how to hack it.) this way they are footing for the power bill and the net bill.

I have said my words and wish them a good luck. but screw my net speed or lat. and you will find me at your biz door... been with you from day one of there high speed. dealt with enough crap.

JasAce said:

Ok now for as far as the wireless setup. why wont they just go to there nodes and set up there wifi there? This in return allows there plain to be a foot. Dose not take away from the customers line. dose not allow outside person to enter the customers wireless router! (trust me with in a month they will know how to hack it.) this way they are footing for the power bill and the net bill.

This is something I know was brought up in our meeting when this was first announced a few months ago. I heard this is where they want to eventually be, but for now the wifi routers in homes seem to be a test to see if it's something they want to pursue later with the higher end equipment on the nodes themselves.

WorldTraveller said:

Not only are the customer's going to be compensated for loss of bandwidth, but what of the electric bill? Is Comcast going to start paying the electric bill for renting out space in one's home? This is a bad idea all around. Just because something is possible doesn't mean it should be done.

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