back to article Comcast expands public Wi-Fi net using customers' modems

Comcast, the US's largest broadband provider, has announced plans to expand its public Wi-Fi network by turning millions of customers' cable modems into open wireless hotspots, as well as providing new wireless home automation capabilities. As Comcast explained in a blog post on Monday, the newest version of its Xfinity …


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  1. Azzy
    Thumb Down

    Are you kidding me?!

    Why the hell should I want my modem giving internet to anyone other than me?

    For that matter, why do I want my modem doing wifi period? I do NOT trust the comcast clowns with my wifi security. Will I need to wrap my next modem in foil?

    Totally not cool.

    1. Number6

      Re: Are you kidding me?!

      Provided it doesn't detract from my bandwidth, I'm less bothered about there being a side channel using a separate IP address, I can see that such a feature could be useful for me when away from home. I'd make sure that the private wifi was disabled though, if I run wifi then it's on my kit, set up the way I want it.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Are you kidding me?!

        "Provided it doesn't detract from my bandwidth,"

        And just who's pipe do you think is being used when they are accessing YOUR modem? The imaginary second one?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Are you kidding me?!

          > And just who's pipe do you think is being used when they are accessing YOUR modem?

          If it's like the "Orange WiFi" solution offered by Orange France, private traffic is prioritized so the public wifi that hitchhikes on your modem will be throttled to avoid limiting your use.

        2. Number6

          Re: Are you kidding me?!

          "And just who's pipe do you think is being used when they are accessing YOUR modem? The imaginary second one?"

          If it's anything like I have with my cable modem here, I pay for 20Mb and the modem is currently provisioned for that, in theory the line supports 50Mb so there's plenty of spare bandwidth. Of course, in an ideal world it would be set up so that the line is configured for 50Mb, I pay for 20Mb guaranteed and have use of the other 30Mb for free if no one else is using it, in return for providing house room for the access point.

    2. M Gale

      Re: Are you kidding me?!

      If it's set up like BT-FON/OpenZone, what's the problem? You can dish out your bandwidth in exchange for being able to use anybody else's bandwidth who's also in on the plan. You don't have to join if you don't want to.

  2. btrower

    It's a beginning...

    We need to move to a global 'always on' infrastructure that maximizes bandwidth. Most or all network devices should be at least capable of joining themselves and others and handing off to one another. This would allow us to carve bandwidth into cells such that high bandwidth wireless connections start becoming possible.

    There are definitely security concerns and metering concerns to deal with. However, if we want to maximize the utility of EM bandwidth we are going to have to head in this direction.

    I say it's a beginning because it has a host of obvious problems that make it impossible as an end goal. However, giving subscribers a taste of what it is like to be comfortably 'always on' should accelerate the movement.

  3. bumpy

    This can't end well

    This could only work if:

    1) You are given a way to opt out so sharing does not impact your performance.

    2) Comcast provides a clear audit trail over who using your access point downloaded kiddie porn.

    3) Even if (2), Comcast needs to indemnify you so you are in no danger of being prosecuted for any misuse of "your" connection.

    I have avoided Comcast to date due to their one-sided terms of service and this does not help.

  4. Mike Moyle


    Does providing Comcast with a free neighborhood hotspot get me any additional capacity before I get tagged as "using more than my fair share" of network capacity and face the sudden but inevitable throttling...?

    Does Comcast indemnify me against the MPAA/RIAA/federal/state/local law enforcement if someone uses my connection to upload/download movies, music, governmental secrets, or kiddy-smut...?


    Thanks, Comcast... I think I'll pass!

    1. digitsbits

      Re: So-o-o-o-o-o...

      ive surpassed my data restrictions every month for the past 2 years and never suffered any throttling. and my limit is 250gb a month i i regularly hit between 380 and 550 a month

  5. Vimes

    If the only thing that identifies one of these access points is an SSID and a login page then surely knocking up a fake system to gather user details wouldn't take too much time or effort? (I think the term is 'evil twin'?)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Even better...

      If the credentials are provided via WPA2 PSK, you wouldn't even need to fake up the login page: just configure a network to allow any login on that SSID (and capture the credentials), and the user would never even know anything untoward had happened.

      If the credentials are provided by a captive login page, then you are correct: faking up such a page and snooping wouldn't be hard at all.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Yes, but this is a problem with WiFi which had security backfitted. The biggest problem is on things like trains where M-i-M is standard.

      But you can see where this is going: Comcast is going to get into the mobile business where it can use something like a SIM to provide reasonable security and this would be a good thing.

      I've just been reconfiguring my WiFi - there are 26 other WiFi networks around on 2.4 GHz including two probable honeypots. :-/

  6. Ashton Black

    Meanwhile in the UK...

    BT have been doing this for a few years with BT-FON. Yes, it does impact ADSL2+ performance, (after a number of experiments with a HomeHub3). It is a "secure" web page and if you "opt-out" and turn it off, you are not allowed to use anyone else's BT-FON hotspot, but to be honest, I've never had call to use it.

  7. aaronj2906_01
    Big Brother

    Hackers are gonna love this.

    I have Comcast and I keep my cable modem in bridge-mode only.... So how about I set up a fake AP with a captive portal to mimic what Comcast wants to do. Put this thing on it's own subnet using traffic shaping to give internet access, but slowly... to keep users interested. All the while applying deep packet inspection to all traffic, skimming useful data. Hmm.

    As described, this would be a security nightmare.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hackers are gonna love this.

      Soooo, when will you be having your interview for that position with the NSA?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hackers are gonna love this.

      > So how about I set up a fake AP with a captive portal to mimic what Comcast wants to do.

      And where will you get the Comcast security keys from, to enable logins?

  8. Deadlock Victim

    And this is why...

    ...I'm a Comcast customer who will stay on his own hardware thankyouverymuch.

  9. Herby

    And you thought...

    NSA snooping was evil. This is REALLY bad. Why should someone give up bandwidth through their own access point to someone else who pays Comcrunch money. Do I get a refund when THEY use MY access point.

    As was said in previous posts: NO THANKS

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: And you thought...

      Don't jump to (bad) conclusions. If it is done like it is in the UK:

      1) Public users will only use bandwidth that you aren't using.

      2) They will not be identified as coming from your IP address - it will be a separate IP address, and users will have to login, so illegal use can still be identified to the user concerned.

      3) Bandwidth used will not count as YOUR bandwidth.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are many issues that Comcast needs to answer before this should even be rolled out.

    1) Does the "open" SSID have a separate IP address? If not, then what keeps someone from doing illegal things? Sure you need a username and password but if you have two "Guests" then which one was it?

    2) Is there enough security in the RG that it will truly keep "Guests" off of the inside network?

    a) Many companies that make residential products are horrible insecure. Arris cannot even get ARP right. Their handling of ARP is horrendous and worst yet, you can see ARP requests on the inside for the outside interface.

    3) How do they distinguish between th traffic from one SSID from the other?

    a) Couldn't users share their login information with a friend and they each use the others login information so that they use the "Guest" portion for their surfing and it doesn't hit their bandwidth cap.

    b) Or does the RG report back with how much a particular user used and it deducts that from their allotment?

    4) If someone buy X amount of speed, does the "Guest" deduct from it?

    This just all seems like a very ill conceived plan from Cum-cock.

  11. Comments are attributed to your handle

    Tomorrow's security vulnerability, today.

  12. tempemeaty

    Wireless submersion

    Will the wireless signal strength have to be increased to ridiculous levels on each unit and how much crap can you broadcast in the human environment before it begins damaging the living things in it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wireless submersion

      Well, that didn't work for popcorn, maybe try sausages? Could be a hit in dorms..

  13. Pax681

    British Telecom have been doing it for years

    recently moved to them for fibre. they have a similar system.

    IF they are using the same system, which is that with their router firmware the hotspot is there IF you opt in.

    now IF you opt in with BT, you get to use all their hotspots plus the FON and other ones worldwide... but here's the kicker.. you just wait till the system picks up the hotspot... then use your own equipment.. no BT hotspot and the job is a good un.

    the bandwidth used by the hotspot doesn't count from your allowance.. mind you, in saying that i don't have an allowance, i got the unlimited package.

    But even those with the smaller packages, the bandwidth isn't counted in the monthly allowance.

    YMMV with comcast and it would not surprise if if your isp's in the US humped you that little bit more... it seems to be the way there..

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I own my own Motarola Surfboard Comcast modem. Can I backcharge these gonifs? Seriously, how can they legally profit by piggybacking on other people's personal property?

    1. M Gale

      Because if this is anything like the deal BT have been running for years, you choose whether to join that club or not.

      Don't want access to a huge network of BT-FON points? Don't enable your point. I can't see how ComCast's setup is going to be much different.

      tl;dr: Untwist those knickers until you know what's actually happening eh?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And public File-Sharers...?

    I quickly scanned through... So maybe I missed something in the article. ...

    Is a separate IP address assigned to the Public Wi-Fi?

    If not this could get messy will 3 or 5 strike File-Sharing penalties....

  16. Bruce Woolman

    Hey. Come on everybody. This is Comcast.

    And it is going to be really really cool to share our bandwidth. Think of all the awesome people passing by your house who you will empower enable and facilitate with a part of your network. It is pure Comcast synergy! What, I ask you, could possibly go wrong?

  17. digitsbits

    but most worrying is....

    what about all the jack holes who end up using my modem for nefarious things... ive already had issue with anyone else running up the tab when im not there.. i mean isnt that why they say lock down your router so no one can steal your info and or make it look like you did it cause i doubt that anyone connecting wirelessly will get a different IP than mine. so whos going to protect me when these jerks allow just anyone to connect to my modem.

  18. Timo

    will wait to see how this plays out

    There have already been some good concerns posted, but the part that I picked up on was that you'd have to log into the guest hotspots with your Comcast login/password while you're "roaming". Maybe that will give them the ability to track usage whether you are home or away.

    That would seem to close the "guest" loophole where you can log into your own network as guest and get around usage caps etc. But then it also provides a lot of incentive to M-i-M and harvest other user credentials. This would be great as you will have all of the info you need handed to you, on your own network.

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