The new program from the cable giant aims to let other users log onto WiFi using the signal from your Comcast router. It means adding a second, public signal to the private one you use at home. So anyone from your babysitter to a total stranger can register their device and hop online if they're nearby.
Some customers are already experiencing the service at home, though the project has not officially launched here yet. Viewers wrote in saying they can see the second signal –called "Xfinity WiFi" - in their wireless options list.
"By making so many WiFi signals out there more available, of course it's making it available to hackers, although of course Comcast would say no it's not," Graham said.
It's a fear echoed by University of Denver law professor John Soma. After studying privacy law for more than three decades, Soma says security is rarely certain.
"I'm very confident that at least a middle schooler or high school kid somewhere in the world will be able to [hack into your router]," Soma said.
Comcast said that the company has several layers of security in place in addition to free privacy programs. A spokesman suggested a strong password. They insist the system is secure.
But do you really want to share a connection with someone you don't know doing whatever they do on the internet through your connection? What if they're downloading Game of Thrones illegally? What if they're really into child porn? What if they're hacking into the Pentagon? The list goes on.
Comcast might just be lying about public users not impacting your own download speeds. The other option is that Xfinity WiFi Home Hotspot uses its own separate channel to the internet. This is entirely possible — DOCSIS 3.0 can accommodate around 1Gbps, so there’s plenty of free space. But how big is this separate channel? 50Mbps? 100Mbps? And if there’s lots of spare capacity, why is Comcast giving it to free WiFi users rather than the person who’s paying a lot of money for the connection? And isn’t Comcast usually complaining about its network being congested? At least, that’s the excuse it used to squeeze money from Netflix, and to lobby for paid internet fast lanes.
What is less clear is ownership of the connection between the modem and the wall socket (your cable) and between the wall socket and the junction box (fiber to the curb/cabinet).
You almost certainly own the cable from the modem to the wall, and Comcast is treading on shaky ground by using that cable, especially as the Xfinity residential WiFi rollout is opt-in by default. There have also been instances where FTTC providers pass the buck when there’s issues with the copper wire between your home and the junction box — suggesting that you might own that as well (it runs over your property, at the very least).
When a 9NEWS employee with Comcast service followed the online opt-out instructions, they led to a page that touted the benefits of the public hotspot idea but didn't offer any way to opt out.
The 9NEWS employee then tried Comcast's second opt-out method, by phone. After 42 minutes on the phone with various customer service representatives, we were told it's impossible to opt out.
1. If you are using the Comcast Xfinity Gateway WiFi Router, it will likely arrive with the public WiFi already turned on. According to CDA's techs, there are options available to have this service disabled through Comcast, although it can be a painful process and will require persistence and a solid time commitment with Comcast's technical support.
2. You can purchase your own, non-Comcast modem and/or router that is compatible with Comcast and their Xfinity product. It would be money up front, but would also save you Comcast's monthly leasing fee of $8-$9 per month. There are several modem options available to Comcast consumers. You can read the available product list here.
And keep in mind that Carpender Design Audio is happy to help you with all of your networking needs! So give us a call and let us assist you!
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