Comcast's initiative to turn residential wireless routers into public Wi-Fi hotspots has taken a major step forward this week as the company flipped the switch on 50,000 routers in the Houston, Texas, area. Another 100,000 hotspots are expected to go live in the greater Houston area by the end of the month according to a report from the Houston Chronicle.

The hotspot, free to use for Comcast customers, is enabled by default for those using an Arris Touchstone Telephony Wireless Gateway Modem. The cable and Internet provider is quick to point out that the public network is separate from a user's private home network and public connections won't slow down the owner's residential connection.

Comcast informed customers of the change in a letter last month and will again remind them about the service via e-mail once it launches in their area. Fortunately, the hotspot can be disabled by either calling Comcast's customer service line or by going to the account page on the company's website to disable it manually.

Amalia O'Sullivan, Comcast's vice president of Xfinity Internet Product, said the goal of the initiative is to make it easier for friends and family to use each other's home Wi-Fi networks. Instead of coming over and having to ask for your Wi-Fi password, guests will simply be able to connect to the public Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot.

Comcast aims to launch around 8 million of these Wi-Fi hotspots across the country by the end of 2014.