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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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  • Credential phising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by psergiu ( 67614 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @02:00PM (#47204605)

    How long before someone releases a tool that would have a Linux-running computer or device with a WiFi card masquerading as an official Comcast WiFi hotspot an collecting the usernames & passwords of the users trying to connect ?

  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @02:02PM (#47204619) Journal

    The real problem here is people logging on to "comcast wifi" or whatever it's called using the same credentials they use to log on to their ISP account. How hard will it be for nogoodniks to set up hotspots called "comcast wifi" (or whatever) and scoop up all the credentials?

    Here in NoVa Cox is doing the same thing.

  • Re:Liability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tippe ( 1136385 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @02:44PM (#47205163)

    No no, the answer is to cancel your own Comcast service and mooch off your neighbours who don't know any better. Unfortunately you'll be hurting your neighbours, but in return you'll be hitting Comcast where it hurts not once, but twice: once for having dropped your service, and once again for using essentially the same service you used to pay for via their new city-wide free WiFi.

    Seriously, what idiot thought this would be a good idea? Punish your customers and give moochers, criminals and cheapskates free and anonymous internet. Brilliant...

  • Re:Liability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @02:54PM (#47205259) Homepage

    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?

  • Re:Liability (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nabsltd ( 1313397 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @04:11PM (#47205959)

    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.

    It's a completely separate segment of the private IP space, but once it heads through the router, every other device on the Internet (including the MPAA/RIAA scanners) will see the exact same public IP as the customer is given.

    I'm assuming that Comcast doesn't have 50,000 spare routable IP addresses, but that's not a bad assumption.

  • by Njovich ( 553857 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @04:22PM (#47206077)

    Wish I had modpoints to mod this to -2, but Soulskill, you are definitely one of the top 3 best editors Slashdot has had, don't listen to these idiots.

  • Re: Liability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bengie ( 1121981 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @04:35PM (#47206193)
    The same way the bank owns your house of you have a mortgage, so the bank can stop over and let people into your house without warning, right?
  • Re:Liability (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nabsltd ( 1313397 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @09:01AM (#47211317)

    Besides it further assumes that they are not using Carrier Grade NAT [] which is exactly how Free, a French ISP that has been doing the same thing for years, is handling this.

    Even better, as now all the WiFi users appear to come from a single IP as far as the MPAA/RIAA is concerned, which means the only way they can get more info is if Comcast keeps insanely detailed records about every one of these connections. Keeping normal accounting information won't be enough to identify a copyright infringer...Comcast would also have to keep the IP/port connection logs from the NAT device.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.