Comcast wants users to share Wi-Fi

Comcast wants users to share Wi-Fi

Summary: Comcast is encouraging its Xfinity Internet customers to share their Wi-Fi with other Comcast customers with its "Neighborhood Hotspot" initiative

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One way to extend Internet wireless coverage has always been for users to share their Wi-Fi. On June 10th, Comcast started urging its Xfinity Internet  customers to share their bandwidth with its ‘Neighborhood Hotspot’ Initiative. It's not as open as it sounds.

ComcastXfinity
Comcast's new Wi-Fi sharing plan is for Comcast customers only.

Comcast's proposal comes on the heels of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) making a similar, but broader, suggestion. Peter Eckersley, the EFF's Technology Projects Director, said "The gradual disappearance of open wireless networks is a tragedy of the commons." This "progressive locking of wireless networks is harmful—for convenience, for privacy and for efficient use of the electromagnetic spectrum." The EFF's proposal was that people, after checking with their ISP's Terms of Service (ToS) and Acceptable Usage Policies (AUP), should share their bandwidth with the Wi-Fi service set identifier (SSID) "openwireless.org." In the EFF scheme, this connection can be shared with anyone.

Comcast's idea is more limited. In Comcast's plan, Xfinity Internet clients may offer other Comcast customers bandwidth over the “xfinitywifi” SSID. Internet traffic over this connection, the company states, will be "completely separate and distinct from the family’s private and secure home Wi-Fi signal." This traffic also won't cost customers any additional fees.

To use “xfinitywifi" hotspot visiting Xfinity Internet subscribers must sign in and connect using their own user names and passwords. According to a Comcast represenative if you're a non-subscriber you "can use the hotspots for free twice per month for up to an hour each time." 

"Wi-Fi is at the center of our strategy to offer our customers the best online experience, whether it’s the fastest Wi-Fi experience in the home, or a fast and reliable Wi-Fi environment outside the home,” said Tom Nagel, Comcast's Senior VP of Business Development, in a statement. “Wi-Fi is an important part of our strategy to be the place where customers connect all devices, anywhere and at any time.”

To help make this happen, Comcast’s newest Wireless Gateway, which incorporates a Cisco 802.11n router, broadcasts two Wi-Fi signals. By default, the primary Internet connection is securely configured for the private use of the home subscriber. The second is the neighborhood "xfinitywifi" network signal that can be shared with other Comcast customers.

On the one hand, this is a far more limited Wi-Fi sharing plan than the EFF's proposal. On the other, this plan is far safer than a purely open wireless network. For Comcast's customers -- if enough of them adopt it -- this will make mobile Wi-Fi use easier for them when they're on the road. For everyone else... not so much.

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Topics: Wi-Fi, Broadband, Mobility, Networking

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5 comments
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  • Sure like someone would really share anything with Loverock Davidson or

    Owlllllnet or Toddbottom3........that will happen when H*** freezes over.

    End Of Story......Period
    Over and Out
    • You sir...

      ...are a moron.

      On topic: I'm curious. How will having a bunch of people in your neighborhood connected to your router affect service quality? I don't want to end up streaming Netflix in ultra-low-def just because the kid next door is hosting an iron-man 3 torrent on his laptop.
      mrefuman
      • mrefuman You sir... ...post like a moron.

        If you had a brain SIR you would understand why you wouldn't share anything with Loverock Davidson or
        Owlllllnet or Toddbottom3........They would try and make it a Windows 8 only connection and clog it up with Microsoft dribble............... that will never happen .....as I said H*** would freezes over first.

        End Of Story......Period
        Over and Out
        • You your comment is completely off topic and irrelevant.

          I don't understand why posters have been attacking each other on zdnet, it seems to be getting worse. If you have something relevant, and not a personal attack, to post to make then by all mean post it. To be fair the attacks have been coming to both sides, well reasoned debates are fine, but this post has absolutely no value to it.
          Sam Wagner
  • Why ?

    Ok, I think I understand the technical part. It seems simple enough. I buy a new Cisco 802.11n router from Comcast. It broadcasts two Wi-Fi signals --- 1 is secure for me and 1 is for "neighborhood" use. After paying for this router, I continue paying my high monthly Comcast bill but my neighbor can now use this new free WiFi connection.

    Wow. Why would I do that ?

    Actually, maybe I can talk to my neighbor and we can split the monthly Comcast bill by using these 2 separate signals and share the bandwidth --- as long as we each agree not to go nuts and suck up all the bandwidth.

    And I can see it being an easier way to share a connection in a community, like in a dorm.

    Except for these possibilities, which don't work for me, there's no way I'm doing this. I see only downsides and no upsides. I'd just be paying for someone else's free connection
    Mike655mm