As we have mentioned in the past, the building out of Comcast’s Xfinity WiFi network is being accomplished primarily through the activation of a second Xfinity WiFi SSID on consumer routers. This practice has many consumers unhappy and questioning how it can be that Comcast is using its customers resources for it’s own gain: “Comcast Thinks Its Okay To Install Public WiFi In Your House” A class action lawsuit has just been filed in California against Comcast. Comcast never received authorization from its customer to broadcast a second public SSID from their homes and the lawsuit claims that:
“Indeed, without obtaining its customers’ authorization for this additional use of their equipment and resources, over which the customer has no control, Comcast has externalized the costs of its national Wi-Fi network onto its customers,” the court filing says. “The new wireless routers the Company issues consume vastly more electricity in order to broadcast the second, public Xfinity Wi-Fi Hotspot, which cost is born [sic] by the residential customer.” Comcast sued for creating public hotspots using private wireless routers — RT USA
For those who are unaware of the secondary Xfinity SSID – Comcast is working on building out its WiFi network, with a target of 8 million Xfinity WiFi hotspots accessible to Comcast subscribers. These hotspots are not actually being built out by Comcast, they are being broadcast from paying subscribers home routers. These SSIDs are being broadcast “opt-out” which means that they are broadcasting an Xfinity SSID as default in addition to the personal SSID of the Comcast subscriber. Many consumers are not even aware that this is occurring, they simply see an Xfinity SSID when they scan for available WiFi networks and assume that it’s location is somewhere else – they don’t even realize it is being broadcast from their own home. While consumers are technically able to “opt-out” from the secondary SSID, consumers are complaining that the opt out process is complicated, Comcast employees don’t know how to advise it and the links to opt-out are not even working. While there are certainly questions as to the ethics of Comcast’s practices, there are also very valid concerns about the service impact on Comcast subscribers:
1. Utilizing Customer Resources For Their Own Gain: In addition using a router that the customer is paying for to build out their own network, Comcast is utilizing customer resources like electricity. So a customer is paying a portion of their electric bill to cover Comcast’s WiFi network.
2. Service degradation: Because a router only has one bandwidth pipe going into it (bandwidth which the customer pays for based on their plan) that bandwidth is shared between the two SSIDs. This can cause a decrease in service to the customer if a stranger logs on to the Xfinity SSID. This is something that Comcast recognizes, stating that because WiFi is a shared spectrum experience, there will be, “some impact as more devices share the network.”
3. Security: With hacking and spoofing an ever increasing threat to our personal security, of course consumers are deeply concerned about having strangers accessing WiFi on their personal router. While Comcast, of course, is attempting to minimize the threat to security saying they utilize the same encryption as financial institutions, with companies like Home Depot, Bank of America, Chase and Target in the news for breach of personal security due to hacking – customers should be very concerned about what is Comcast is doing.
This is a big problem for Comcast subscribers in the MDU space whose secondary SSID could potentially be broadcast to very large amounts of people at any given time. Until it become more clear as to what the legal implications of Comcast’s behavior might be, it is important that consumers be aware and know that they can contact Comcast to get this secondary SSID shut off. Taken from the Comcast website:
How do I disable/enable the XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot feature?
- We encourage all subscribers to keep this feature enabled as it allows more people to enjoy the benefits of XFINITY WiFi around the neighborhood. You will always have the ability to disable the XFINITY WiFi feature on your Wireless Gateway by calling 1-800-XFINITY1-800-XFINITY. You can also visit My Account at http://customer.comcast.com/, click on “Users & Preferences”, and then select “Manage XFINITY WiFi.”