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Wireless Networking The Internet

Comcast Converting 50,000 Houston Home Routers Into Public WiFi Hotspots 474

New submitter green453 writes: 'As a Houston resident with limited home broadband options, I found the following interesting: Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle reports (warning: paywalled) that Comcast plans to turn 50,000 home routers into public Wi-Fi hotspots without their users providing consent. Comcast plans to eventually convert 150,000 home routers into a city-wide WiFi network. A similar post (with no paywall) by the same author on the SeattlePI Tech Blog explains the change. From the post on SeattlePI: "What's interesting about this move is that, by default, the feature is being turned on without its subscribers' prior consent. It's an opt-out system – you have to take action to not participate. Comcast spokesman Michael Bybee said on Monday that notices about the hotspot feature were mailed to customers a few weeks ago, and email notifications will go out after it's turned on. But it's a good bet that this will take many Comcast customers by surprise."' This follows similar efforts in Chicago and the Twin Cities.
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Comcast Converting 50,000 Houston Home Routers Into Public WiFi Hotspots

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  • Oh I get it... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @02:09PM (#47204707)

    Seriously... if you have comcast... cancel them now.

    Great idea. Everyone should immediately switch to one of the other many alternatives.

  • Re:Public WiFi? (Score:4, Informative)

    by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @02:21PM (#47204875) Homepage Journal

    My point exactly. It's 'Subscriber WiFi', not 'Public WiFi' as TFA suggests.

  • by Njovich ( 553857 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @02:22PM (#47204889)

    We have this stuff here in Netherlands at one of the biggest providers (Ziggo). It seemed great to me at first, but turned out pretty much useless.

    The problem is, these are home routers inside homes, this means they are low powered, not at ideal locations (not many homes in the mall, highway, train, etc), and also inside usually thick walls that stop a lot of the signal. It's just a frustrating experience, with your phone often falling in and out of connection and such. The 4G network gives a much better experience.

  • Re:Liability (Score:5, Informative)

    by ottawanker ( 597020 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @02:30PM (#47204983) Homepage

    I'm assuming their modems/routers have a way of provisioning a second IP address so that the wifi hotspot doesn't get you in legal trouble (or steal your bandwidth).

  • Re:Liability (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @02:32PM (#47205015)

    Not being from the US, could you please explain what makes this illegal?

    His ego.

  • Re:Liability (Score:5, Informative)

    by un1nsp1red ( 2503532 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @03:00PM (#47205313) Homepage
    It's not *free* wi-fi. You still have to have a Comcast account to connect to any one of them.
  • Re:Liability (Score:5, Informative)

    by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @03:22PM (#47205537)
    Here are some facts:

    - Public wireless users will be using a different IP address from the LAN/internal wireless users.
    - In order to use the "Public" wireless hotspot, you will need to already have a Comcast username and password. It's not OPEN wifi, but open to other Comcast subscribers.
    - "Public" wifi bandwidth will not affect the bandwidth of the home router (so says Comcast).
  • Re:Liability (Score:5, Informative)

    by nairnr ( 314138 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @03:37PM (#47205699)

    As long as you still get the speed you are paying for why should you care if someone else is using your wifi anymore than you care if your neighbor is also a comcast subscriber.

    Because someone might attach to your Wi-fi and share something in a manner that infringes copyright. Then, the MPAA/RIAA will come after you.

    Note, I completely agree that targeting people based on IP address is idiotic, but you would be the person who would either need to spend the time/money to fight this lawsuit or would need to settle with them (likely agreeing that you did the crime) to make it go away.

    On the upside, it could add more dents into the "this IP address proves it was that person" claims of the MPAA/RIAA, but who would want to volunteer for this expense? Or, more accurately, who would want Comcast to volunteer them for this expense unless they go through technological measures to opt out?

    You obviously didn't read the article. They are using the wifi and completely segregating traffic. It appears with a distiinct SSID and on a different IP. The capacity is on a different channel, so gain the host user isn't affected.

  • Re:Liability (Score:4, Informative)

    by nairnr ( 314138 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @03:39PM (#47205719)
    Yes, two SSIDs, separate channel for traffic
  • Re: Liability (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zordak ( 123132 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @06:14PM (#47206885) Homepage Journal
    That's not true at all, and is a bad analogy. You own your house. If the bank has a mortgage, then they have a lien on the house. If they want to take possession of it, they have to go through a foreclosure proceeding. They can't just walk into your living room and start watching TV. Your house is real property, which has lots of strong protections. Comcast, on the other hand, does own the router that they lease to you, which is a chattel and therefore subject to a different set of rights. No, they can't walk in and just take it (that would violate your real property rights). But they do own the network, and if their contract with you is written in a way that permits them to reconfigure a leased router to grant somebody else access to their network over wireless signals that you're leaking out into the air anyway, then yeah, they can do that.
  • Re:Liability (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zordak ( 123132 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @06:25PM (#47206987) Homepage Journal
    You forgot step 1.5 : Login with your username and password that can be easily traced to the traffic, regardless of which physical device you were connected to.

"The pyramid is opening!" "Which one?" "The one with the ever-widening hole in it!" -- The Firesign Theatre