Comcast is expected to flip a switch Tuesday in Houston that will turn 50,000 of its customers’ home Wi-Fi routers into a massive network of public Wi-Fi hotspots.
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. It’s part of an initiative that will see 8 million Wi-Fi hotspots accessible to Comcast customers around the country by the end of the year.
The move could also lay the foundation for Comcast to get into the wireless phone business with a network that blends Wi-Fi and traditional cellular service.
Amalia O’Sullivan, Comcast’s vice president of Xfinity Internet Product, told the Houston Chronicle that the goal is to make it easier for “friends and family” to use each other’s Comcast home Wi-Fi networks.
“Instead of coming over to your house and saying, ‘Hey, what’s your Wi-Fi password?’ your friends can just connect to the Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot,” O’Sullivan said.
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. The black plastic device is tall, narrow and has the word Xfinity on the front. 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.
Comcast spokesman Michael Bybee said the Xfiniti Wi-Fi hotspot will broadcast only in those cases where customers are using the Wi-Fi feature of the Arris device. Customers who have their own Wi-Fi routers won’t be broadcasting the hotspot.
Bybee said the network will be activated in “waves,” with the first 50,000 switched on Tuesday afternoon. The remaining 100,000 will be phased in through the month.
Customers were notified of the plan in a letter last month, Bybee said. An email notification will be sent after the service begins.
Remember the discussion about municipal WiFi a few years ago? That never happened, but this appears to be a successor to it. There are some details to be worked out, so we’ll see how it all goes. Dwight Silverman has been all over this, with technical details including how you can turn this off if you want to. One thing …read more