By Mari Silbey
Posting in Technology
Sitting dormant like sleeper cells, wireless routers in Comcast homes around the country are getting ready to activate a new Wi-Fi network.
Sitting dormant like sleeper cells, wireless routers in Comcast homes around the country will soon by recruited to activate a new Wi-Fi network. With the recent announcement of its neighborhood hotspot initiative, Comcast is preparing to split the wireless signal from home routers to create two parallel Wi-Fi access routes. The first will be private, entirely controlled by the subscriber at home. The second will be open and accessible to anybody with a Comcast Xfinity account.
Comcast's ambitious hotspot plan effectively uses the company's customer footprint, which includes nearly 20 million broadband subscribers across 43 states and Washington D.C., to create a new wireless service. Much like with the Fon Wi-Fi network internationally, subscribers will be able to travel virtually anywhere within a Comcast region and connect to the Internet for free. Customers at home -- unless they choose to opt out -- will provide the access point for that connection without sacrificing their own bandwidth or having guests rack up data usage on an account that's monitored for excessive Internet activity.
"We logically separate [traffic] from a data flow standpoint," says Tom Nagel, a senior vice president at Comcast Cable. "Data that comes in one side cannot migrate to the other. So from a security standpoint there are pretty hard walls."
Here's how it works. Some existing Comcast routers as well as new routers being deployed, will be provisioned to create two separate data tunnels. The technology makes it look a bit like there are two distinct modems in the home. Each virtual connection broadcasts a different SSID, or network name, and connected devices are all assigned different IP addresses. Home users sign on as usual, while guests log in with their own credentials to the wireless network labeled "xfinitywifi".
Nagel suggests there are multiple advantages to creating neighborhood hotspots, as evidenced by other similar deployments around the world.
"Customers really like it... They're using it to get connectivity for two primary reasons. One is lowering the cost of their cellular data plan. Actually three reasons, that's one... The second thing is they love the speed of it... And the third reason is, at least in our footprint, is that they trust the security."
Along with the clear advantages, however, come more nuanced implications. Comcast will ultimately monitor data usage no matter where a consumer signs on to Xfinity Internet service. So, instead of tracking their bandwidth consumption at home, the company will eventually develop a record of a consumer's activity across Wi-Fi hotspots as well. Comcast has no official data cap in place today, and has not moved to usage-based pricing. If that changes, however, subscribers will find that offloading to an Xfinity Wi-Fi network doesn't help keep usage totals down. "This is one network," Nagel says.
Perhaps more important, Comcast, however anonymously, will create a log of when and where subscribers sign on to their accounts. In light of recent Prism revelations, that could fuel consumer privacy fears.
For Comcast, new neighborhood hotspots offer nothing but upside. In conjunction with broader cable industry efforts to let authenticated users roam freely between operator networks, the new hotspot program extends Comcast's reach further beyond the home. The growth potential is huge. In Nagel's own words, "We see millions of hotspots in the next couple of years."
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Jul 8, 2013
I originally thought about this back in 2009 when i was thinking about a world with more efficient internet access. my theory and its now Open Source, is to create a system where internet is linked from home to home and we never have a down day. Example, if a business is using internet connection and all of a sudden local provider drops due to outages, in theory, cell phone owners should be able to wirelessly hooked up together to provide internet to the business. There should be an easy way to get this done, like a switch you turn on from your providers modem. it can work, technology is there, however, i do not have the skillsets to get it done. Novel Remodeling http://www.novelremodeling.com Experienced many down days
As long as Comcast doesn't sell just the roaming service as a separate service it would be more like a COOP for customers to get onto Comcast when they are out and about. This seems like a good idea to me.
I don't know why this is so problematic with folks. I for one think it's a good idea and in fact used it while vacationing in NJ a few weeks ago. This means if you pay for Comcast service at home, it allows you to access Comcast wifi hotspots while travelling or out in the hood using that same Comcast account. What's so bad about this? Would you rather pay someone else for broadband when you're away from the home instead of getting it as an added perk for having Comcast internet service? AT&T basically does the same thing. If you have broadband or smartphone service you get access to the AT&T Wifi hotspots.
I have my own cable modem with WiFi access to avoid paying Comcast a monthly rental fee. A legal installation option in the US. This public WiFi project is based on the assumed use of their cable modems. How much legal trouble do you think they get in if they try and hack my modem to make its wireless access point public? Will they give me a credit on my account to use my WiFi access point with my permission? To put it in 3G/4G terms. I own the tower. I own the transmitter and receiver. I want tower rent which includes the cost to power the transmitter/receiver and I want an access fee based on the number of users per month that use MY tower. No money, no access point in my house on my equipment. Another point. If I were paying a rental fee for the cable modem, should that fee go away since they have now retasked that equipment for an public purpose? It is no longer supporting just me, so why should I pay a rental fee for it? Why should anyone pay a rental free to house and provide power to a transmitter/receiver the company is making a profit off of? If anything they should be paying me to house it and power it. All for the sake of "free" WiFi you guys are willing to get walked all over by this profit making company.
Comcast gets a free ride in building a new network. They do not have to build and maintain cell towers. Their network nodes are inside heated/cooled safe locations, with electricity provided by their clients. And they get built in redundancy. I wonder if you call it crowd-sourcing your network. Cable/wired network provides know the next big thing in wireless communications is going to be replacing wired internet with 4G wireless internet access. They now have a counter move to that attack, before the cell providers can finish setting up their new network. In 5+, 10+ but no more than 20+ years all devices will be wireless. So why would you want to run a cable to your home? The only 3 remaining utilities that connects to a home will be Water (and sewer), electricity, and maybe "gas".
Comcast is trying to be sort of like a "3G / 4G" - similar provider; i.e., high-speed Internet access almost anywhere. This simply proves just HOW MUCH SPARE BANDWIDTH they actually have; and the REAL REASON FOR THEIR DATA CAPS! All of these actions will combine to create "automatic customer overages," once they begin tracking "non-home-wi-fi-use" like they do now for home users with their "meter." I think I will opt-out. WE SHOULD DO A *MASS* OPT-OUT! That would put a kink in their armor; and they would have to put in their own "metropolitan-area secondary routers." Why should I let the router/wi-fi in MY HOME be used by "the masses?" I'm sure they mean "only" the comcast cable modem, and then only the ones with built-in wi-fi, which mine doesn't have. Besides, I *OWN* my cable modem - what about those cases where the customer owns their cable modem?
Why should I let Comcast provide services their customers and make a profit from my home without me getting a cut? They are effectively turning my house into a cell tower for them to make a profit. I want my share.
What stops someone from setting up a capture spot with the same SSID? With many laptops and phones that "remember" the SSID of previously attached networks, then attempt to join into those networks automaticaly, I can imagine a lot of scammers just grabbing traffic. Too many sessions are not encrypted and 99+% of consumers would say "VPN? Wazzat??"
We have been cautioned so many times about people lurking at WiFi hotspots at coffee shops and the like. Sitting there just waiting to steal your user ID and password for email, banking, facebook, whatever. Doesn't this just make the problem a whole lot worse? What's being done to address security. How about a "Comcast VPN" concept?
BT have been doing this in the UK for about 4-5 years now - adding BT WiFi and Fon hotspots (was BT Openzone) to home and business routers, where if you share, you get free access back. Works really well, and has grown to 5 million free (to BT Broadband subscribers) hotspots in the UK, and a pile more Fon hotspots around the world.
Should they try it, it will simply fail to logon a few times, and be ignored as a wrong type. Unless it is a defined modem type, normally their own, the HotSpot addition to the firmware would be a total non-starter....... With hundred's of wireless router types, it's not viable unless it is their one.
That's a negative, rather selfish outlook on this. It's all about co-operation, and giving great coverage for customers - wherever you are. effectively you get free wiFi when out and about, wherever you can find a ComCast customer in the cheme - no need to worry about 3G/4G coverage, no data caps If it's like the UK, it will be ISP supplied Wireless routers only, as they adapt the firmware so there is your private SSID, and a public (though secure logon) scheme wiFi hotspot SSID. I get free BT Wifi at my son's rugby club, in our favorite curry-pub, at Barclay's Bank, several in town in the shopping mall (where 3g coverage sucks), in the town park, at work, at numerous friends without having to nag for their Wireless key (and friends who come to my house). The money the ISP make off this is negligible/non existent, it's all about cementing the long term relationship with the customer and retaining their broadband subscription, by offering them a valuable additional service.
You *do* get a share - when you are out and about, you get free WiFi - as In the UK there are 5 million BT hotspots free to use, unlimited usage by BT Subscribers, across the nation, and 3 million more internationally. http://www.productsandservices.bt.com/products/broadband/free-wifi#freeWifi
This is not FREE - YOU are paying for it! Every 'bit' of data you use, you pay for. This is what's called "an illusion." They create the illusion of "something [free]," when it is anything but free!
"Cut nose, spite face...." If I have a legal setup with my own modem to save paying the monthly rental fee and therefore do not participate in this plan. Is it suddenly not free for me? They said free to all subscribers. "Free" is a marketing scheme. What is hard to see about that? It has to be paid for somewhere. 4 BT broadband rate hikes in 3 years is paying for it. "falling rates" Not according to BT's own press releases on the broadband rate increases.
How much you want to bet rates go up after this "free" services is rolled out? Is it really "free" when BT's broadband access costs have been steadily climbing for years? http://www.broadbandwatcher.co.uk/brace-yourselves-for-more-bt-price-hikes-3485/ After 3 rate hikes in under 2 years they promised not to raise prices in 2012. So what did the do January 2013? http://www.cable.co.uk/news/bt-announces-broadband-home-phone-and-tv-price-rises-801438904/ "Free" is a marketing term. When will people get it that all "free" things are paid for somehow? "Free" in this case means it is a manditory part of all pricing plans.
As I made reasonably clear in the article, BT WiFi in the UK, is totally unlimited free access,, if you are a residential or business BT Broadband subscriber - just like the comcast offering will be for their customers. it's a cheap way to massively deploy WiFi hotspot coverage, at little overall codt. with the BT WiFi, whether you have fibre to the cabinet 50-70Mbit broadband in town, or 2Mbit broadband in rural area's paying somewhere between GBP10 and GBP20/month, you can use Bt WiFi hotspots without any further charge, for free, nada cost - as much as you want - unlimited. If you are not a BT Broadband subscriber, you can choose to pay to use it, or use competitor's offerings - Sky TV Broadband, has a similar offering via their The Cloud hotspot subsidiary for their customers. In some other places like McDonald's, Wetherspoons Pubs, Tesco, Barclay's Bank, Starbucks - theie free Wifi is provided by BT of sky or others.
Participate as a free WiFi tower in our system or we will make you pay. The truth comes out. Nothing is "free". They want some thing from you in return. If it was really "free" to subscribers than it should not require my participation.
If he wants to be a refusenik and not participate, he simply won't get access to free Comcast WiFi when out and about. That's fine by me - called cutting your nose off, to spite your face.
Overall broadband costs have been falling for years, due to competition and price regulation in the UK market. Dial up capped was Â£25/month with local call costs 10-15 years ago, now you can get unlimited data, up to 70MBit for around Â£15/month now with BT. Other operators are available at varying costs/bundled deals.
Broadband costs keep coming down, esp. as they are regulated by UK Office of Communicatons regulator. BT WiFi is free to BT Broadband customers, at 5 million hotspots in the UK. You seem unable to grasp that. If you don't want to use it, your broadband subscription monthly cost is the same, as if you do use it as much as you want. Agreed it is paid for somewhere along the line, but no real difference to free Ketchup in McDonalds or free sugar in Starbucks. It is a new free additional service, at no extra cost to you as a BT broadband subscriber, but huge benefit when you are out and about.,
Since announcing their "free" access BT has raised their rates for broadband subscribers 4 times in just under 3 years. Who gets this "free" service? Broadband subscribers. It is all marketing. Nothing is "free". It is just paid for in other ways. In the US we have seen a growing number of cable service providers brag about providing "free" HD TV. Yet their rates have nearly doubled in the past 5 years as they have standardized their equipment to support HD TV. Nothing is "free". Someone has to pay for it.