Comcast will use your service to offer WiFi to other customers

Yes, you heard that right! If you're a Comcast customer and you rent a cable internet modem from them, then it has a separate wireless channel that other Comcast customers can use. This means as a Comcast customer, you can surf the Internet from any neighborhood where Comcast has an install base.

While in theory I like the flexibility as a Comcast customer to get WiFi anywhere (Xfinity WiFi Hotspots), in practice I'm not too pleased.

Why I'm not pleased.

  • I pay Comcast to have their Internet service, which enables this capability.
  • I pay another $8 to rent their modem, which is also required for this capability.
  • I was never asked; my account was opted-in.
  • If I have an issue with my connection, I have to hold a long time (typically), and if something is wrong at my end, I have to pay for them to correct, yet again Comcast benefits from my service working.
  • If you live in an apartment complex, Comcast advertises your apartment complex on the list of available hotspots (mine shows up).
  • Unless you have Comcast, if you want more than the guest pass allows (see below), Comcast is making money from this service, yet isn't passing it back to its customers that make it possible.
  • It has the potential to slow down connectivity for all of us on the same Comcast Headend. Note, it shouldn't slow you down specifically, unless the headend itself is congested. Comcast claims a separate 6 Mhz channel is used.
There may be another benefit beyond flexibility for you. If you have friends and relatives visiting, and they're Comcast customers, they can use for free and not consume your data -- it seems Comcast caps data at 250 GB per month. If your friends or family don't have Comcast, they can still use it as a guess, twice for up to an hour in a 30 day period.

What can we do about it?

  • Dump Comcast. I know this can be difficult because for most of us the only other option is a much slower DSL connection.
  • Replace the Comcast modem (more info here and here) with one of your own.
  • Figure out how to opt-out -- I looked through my account options and couldn't find it.
  • Write Comcast and your congressman. This, of course, is a slow process, but worth doing.
  • If you're not already rebooting your cable modem on a frequent basis like I am, do it just for fun and kick-off anyone who might be connected. Also, be sure to turn it off when you're not at home.

If Comcast was to make a few changes, I might be more amenable.

  • Ask me -- no auto-opt-in.
  • Offer me free onsite service -- if the service is failing for me, it's also failing for any other Comcast customer who wants to use the service via my rented modem.
  • Ah, rented huh? The modem should not have a rental fee.
I don't think any of these things are unreasonable, yet when you're already recognized as one of the worst companies to do business with and you have a virtual monopoly, Comcast has no incentive to be reasonable.


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