A story published today in the Houston Chronicle warns Comcast customers that Comcast intends to flip a switch today that will turn 50,000 cable modems in Houston into free wifi hot spots for other Comcast customers.
Comcast residential Internet subscribers with one of the newer cable modem/wireless router combos will show a public network called "xfinitywifi." Other Comcast customers will be able to connect to it free. By the end of June, there will be 150,000 such hotspots in the greater Houston area.
This means others could sit outside your home, connect to your network and download anything they want. Legal or illegal. As we have seen before, having an open hot spot can get you in legal trouble when the guy down the street is using your connection to access illegal things on the internet.
The free network will be on by default for customers who have an Arris Touchstone Telephony Wireless Gateway Modem, which Comcast has been distributing for about two years in Houston. It costs $8 a month to rent, and is the standard equipment being issued to Comcast customers who don't buy their own modems or routers.
For those who may be unnerved that their private home routers suddenly are offering public access to their Internet connections, the hotspot can be disabled. Customers can either call Comcast customer service and ask that it be turned off, or go to the account page on Comcast's website and disable it themselves. (Log in at customer.comcast.com, go to My Account and then Users & Preferences. Look for the "Manage Xfinity Wi-Fi" link.)
Comcast charges $8 per month for their cable modems. You can consider purchasing your own and returning theirs. This reduces your monthly cost, but if the cable modem goes bad, it is yours to replace, not theirs. The Fry's Eelectronics in Stafford sells them.
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If you have questions about turning this new "feature" off or about wireless security please contact us.