How Will Comcast’s Huge Wi-Fi Plan Affect Customers and Competitors

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Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) has announced the controversial rollout of a plan that will make WiFi be available to Xfinity customers at thousands of public hotspots — but at the price of using their home routers to broadcast that public signal. In addition to the primary, private WiFi network, residential wireless routers will broadcast a second, separate Xfinity WiFi signal. Comcast explains that additional capacity is added to the existing device to broadcast the public WiFi signal, and says that the “Home Hotspot” operates independently from the owner’s home network.

The signal won’t truly be accessible to anyone. Xfinity customers will need to input their Comcast login credentials to be able to access the hotspots, although PCMag reports that non-Comcast customers will be able to access the network either for a limited time for for a fee.

Comcast has reassured customers concerned about security implications that the public network is secured under WPA or WPA2 security protocols, the strongest method available. But PCMag points out that the larger security concern is related to the way that users can locate Xfinity hotspots. Customers can locate hotspots either on the Xfinity app or on a locator website, and Comcast says it won’t list specific addresses on the locator map or in the app. However, its vague answer to a related FAQ on its website indicates that privacy may still be a concern:

“We do not list subscribers’ addresses on the hotspot location map or in the XFINITY WiFi app. In the future we may use general indicators of XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot availability around a neighborhood, but only in a manner that assures the privacy of our customers.”

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