updated 01:53 pm EDT, Wed June 11, 2014
Secondary SSID will be enabled on 150,000 Comcast routers by end of June
Comcast subscribers in Houston will soon see a new secondary SSID broadcasting from their routers, as the company prepares to create more Wi-Fi hotspots. Approximately 50,000 Comcast routers in the area will begin to offer free "xfinitywifi" hotspot access to other Comcast subscribers, a move the company has previously tested and launched in other areas, despite the controversial nature of the program.
The Houston Chronicle claims the first wave of router-based hotspots were activated yesterday, with the total number of spots using the Arris Touchstone Telephony Wireless Gateway Modem set to increase to 150,000 by the end of June. In theory, the service is beneficial to subscribers, as it allows them free Internet access in more locations using their log-in credentials, but the scheme isn't without its critics.
Some are worried that inviting others to use the secondary SSID would take away valuable bandwidth from the subscriber's own account. Comcast advised the report that it would in fact use a separate "service flow" channel, which will use the remaining potential bandwidth of a connection that a subscriber is not paying for, giving the customer their entire paid allocated bandwidth. Usage by visitors is also tied to their own Comcast account, so owners of routers with a data allowance cap will not be affected by the change.
Concerned subscribers are also worried that they could be made responsible for actions another user has performed through their router, such as downloading TV shows or songs illegally. Gizmodo was told by Comcast that since a user has to authenticate their device in order to use xfinitywifi, so "any of that data usage and activity is the responsibility of that end user, not the home owner's."
While opening up a second SSID will not likely cause any issues with people gaining access to the home network, the security conscious are able to turn off the public Wi-Fi hotspot through their Comcast account page, though they will still be able to use hotspots on other routers.