Comcast customers will soon be able to access Wi-Fi almost anywhere the company has a router, but the coverage comes with a caveat: If you’re a Comcast subscriber, the router in your house is about to be accessible to the public.
Three million of the company’s older routers have already been replaced with newer versions, according to CNN Money, as part of a massive project to expand its wireless internet coverage. Customers with an Xfinity account will be able to register their device and benefit from almost constant internet access, regardless of where they are. Yet while the upsides are fairly obvious, Comcast’s plan is raising significant questions about the security of private networks.
Comcast explains that each of the new Arris routers have two separate antennae, which operate independent of each other and would stop someone on the public Wi-Fi channel from accessing private Wi-Fi, which is essentially a separate network. Speed caps on each channel would also prevent subscribers from seeing their internet speeds dragged down by guests. Charlie Douglas, a spokesman for Comcast, also claimed that the company’s existing cable lines have “more than enough capacity” for the system to properly operate.
Some critics are calling the move a “money grab,” however, accusing Comcast of profiting off the backs of customers who already pay for their Wi-Fi. Anyone accessing the public network without an Xfinity account gets their first hour for free, yet they get charged for anything beyond that. As Fox6 reports, the second hour costs $2.95, while a day costs $7.95, and a full week will set non-subscribers back $19.95.
Steve Kipps, a VP of communications with Comcast, pointed out that non-Xfinity users would be viewed as “a temporary customer at that point so they are traceable,” adding to the security of the secondary network. Cyber-security researcher Craig Young told CNN Money, however, that of the top 50 Wi-Fi routers on the market, two-thirds have serious security weaknesses. “If you’re opening up another access point,” Young said, “it increases the likelihood that someone can tamper with your router.”
Comcast is certainly no stranger to criticism in recent months. A proposed merger with Time Warner Cable has faced strong opposition from customers and consumer advocates. As The Inquisitr reported when the deal was announced, both Time Warner and Comcast consistently rank poorly in consumer satisfaction surveys.
Any Comcast subscriber who doesn’t want their router turned into a public Wi-Fi hotspot can opt out of the process by contacting the company.
[Images via Businessweek and Business Insider]