Did you know you were a public hotspot hub for Comcast?


Here’s an ideological question – would you forgo personal privacy and security for the common good? If you could open up your home wireless router to others would you? I have certainly heard of people finding a way to share access with their neighbors since I’ve been in involved with ISPs. I remember in 1995, customers of MRNet found ways to connect their network through a dialup connection. (Can you imagine sharing a dialup connection now!) But the decision was always on the customer to share. Comcast has turned that around a little; according to CNN

Comcast has been swapping out customers’ old routers with new ones capable of doubling as public hotspots. So far, the company has turned 3 million home devices into public ones. By year’s end it plans to activate that feature on the other 5 million already installed.

Anyone with an Xfinity account can register their devices (laptop, tablet, phone) and the public network will always keep them registered — at a friend’s home, coffee shop or bus stop. No more asking for your cousin’s Wi-Fi network password.

And yes, this has been happening in Minnesota…

Comcast’s project that started in northern New Jersey has now spread to Boston, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and elsewhere.

They say they have found ways to make it secure for the end user and to make sure added usage does not hinder speeds. All good developments – but to me the hiccup is doing it without informed consent. I assume customers have signed something (no one waking more eloquently about usage agreements that John Oliver on acceptable use) but according to the article, only one percent have opted out, which tells me most folks haven’t realized this was happening.

So two questions – should an ISP have permission/ability/right to open up the network in this way? Second – will they be opening up the technology to make this possible to others? So can a community looking to expand broadband learn any tricks? And a while back there was some pressure on coffee shops and others who offer public WiFi, often through “home” type connections to upgrade to commercial Hot Spot services – does this help those businesses offer public hot spots more easily and within the boundaries of their contract.