Comcast, which is currently the largest ISP in the US, wants to add a second signal to your Xfinity modem so that other Comcast subscribers may access then Internet when they are away from home and near your gateway. Simply put, Comcast is essentially transforming all of their customer’s home modems into a public WiFi hotspot.
These Xfinity wireless gateways will be distinct from the customer’s main signal and will need a Comcast subscriber’s password and username. Comcast boasts over 150,000 hotspots scattered throughout the country in numerous states.
“Comcast’s newest Wireless Gateway broadcasts two Wi-Fi signals,” Comcast wrote on their official page about the new program. “By default, one is securely configured for the private use of the home subscriber. The second is a neighborhood ‘xfinitywifi’ network signal that can be shared. This creates an extension of the Xfinity Wi-Fi network and will allow visiting Xfinity Internet subscribers to sign in and connect using their own usernames and passwords.”
Comcast says they have experimented with the idea in parts of Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Northern Virginia region, and New Jersey with great success.
“WiFi is at the center of our strategy to offer our customers the best online experience, whether it’s the fastest WiFi experience in the home, or a fast and reliable WiFi environment outside the home,” said Tom Nagel who serves as Comcast’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. “WiFi is an important part of our strategy to be the place where customers connect all devices, anywhere and at any time.”
While the idea of having a separate signal in your home isn’t necessarily useful, the separate hotspot signal will definitely be a benefit to those who are away from home and near another subscriber’s gateway, there are some serious concerns with this system that Comcast should address to their customers.
Comcast explains that their newest wireless gateway will broadcast two separate WiFi signals from your modem, but this leaves open a lot of security and bandwidth questions that are left unanswered. For example, what if a hacker were to purposely find an open hotspot (your home modem), vandalize a website or steal data, and then be on their way? Also, what about the bandwidth? A modem can only send and receive so much data, what if someone on your second signal was to download movies and songs for hours on end?
The last question is, will the customer have the option to opt out of using their modem as a transmitter for a hotspot? Comcast has yet to answer any of these kinds of security questions, and they really need to be addressed.