Comcast’s latest bad idea turns your Wi-Fi into everybody’s Wi-Fi

Comcast is building the nation’s biggest Wi-Fi service by co-opting their customers’ Xfinity gateways.

Some ideas are just plain bad and when you hear about one of these you have to wonder how and why those responsible ever thought it was good in the first place…which brings me to Comcast’s latest “good idea”which transcends bad and moves into “sucks.”

Before we slice and dice the badness, let me first outline what Comcast plans to do: The company plans to create what will become the biggest Wi-Fi network in the country by transforming residential Xfinity gateways into public Wi-Fi access points (public, that is, if you’re an Xfinity customer).

Now that may sound good in principle, but if you’re a customer and up to five other passing customers can glom onto your network, there’s potentially going to be a bandwidth loss as far as you’re concerned. According to the Houston Chronicle

Comcast officials … say that people using the Internet via the hotspot won’t slow down Internet access on the home network. Additional capacity is allotted to handle the bandwidth.

Which is, of course, nonsense as Comcast won’t be bumping up consumers’access bandwidth to accommodate the extra traffic, so the only place the bandwidth can come from will be the existing bandwidth.

Traffic from the new service will be segregated from the hosting consumer’s network (passersby will only be able to access the Internet and the hosting consumer’s network will be invisible) but that doesn’t mean that the isolation will prevent problems. Consider the issue of responsibility for what’s done on the consumer’s connection: What if the passerby does something illegal? Sure, Comcast says that to gain access the passerby will have to log in with their Xfinity ID, but if I were a Comcast consumer I’d hate to have the FBI detect someone downloading, say, kiddie porn over my connection and have them turn up to raid my house on the basis of my IP address being involved. We know such things can happen and have happened, so why should this service be any different?

Whether consumers like this suckiness or not, it’s going to happen and, according to the Houston Chronicle, last Tuesday some 50,000 customers were “enabled.”Of course, most of them won’t notice or be aware that anything has changed and if they do or don’t like it, they’ll have to go into the settings on their Xfinity gateways and disable the new service …yes, the scheme is “opt-out,”not “opt-in.”

I’ll bet there will be unforeseen consequences, bugs, and security issues and the fact that the service is opt-out tells you something important: It’s being foisted upon consumers as a fait accompli showing, once again, when there’s no competition, big business always starts to feel way too comfortable in imposing its will on its customers.

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(Thanks to Jerry Dixon for the heads-up.)

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