Comcast is rolling out a new feature for its Xfinity Internet customers in the Seattle region and other parts of Washington state that turns home wireless routers into public Internet hotspots by broadcasting a separate WiFi signal from the router that can be used by other Comcast/Xfinity customers.
It’s part of a broader national expansion of the XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot capability. The feature has divided the Comcast user base — with some customers welcoming the wider availability of no-extra-charge hotspots, but others expressing dismay that their home routers would be used to provide Internet access to others.
Comcast assures customers that the signal is separate from their private home networks, keeping those personal networks secure from intrusion and letting customers give visitors Internet access without sharing a password or slowing down their own network. Xfinity customers aren’t charged for the additional usage of their routers.
The company says customers will be notified in advance via email and letter. But the system is opt-out, not opt-in, so if those notices are overlooked, the sudden appearance of the “xfinitywifi” signal can be a shock, especially in apartment complexes or other settings where the signal can be picked up by neighbors or people outside.
@XFINITY whoevers brillant idea it was to enable the xfinitywifi hotspot on home users routers needs to be fired…
— Steve (@OptnTradrsUntd) June 11, 2014
For anyone who wants to disable the feature, here’s what Comcast says …
We encourage all subscribers to keep this feature enabled as it allows more people to enjoy the benefits of XFINITY WiFi around the neighborhood. You will always have the ability to disable the XFINITY WiFi feature on your Wireless Gateway by calling 1-800-XFINITY. You can also visit My Account at http://customer.comcast.com/, click on “Users & Preferences”, and then select “Manage XFINITY WiFi.”
Comcast says the rollout in Western Washington and Spokane will create 219,000 Xfinity WiFi hotspots for its customers in the state, in addition to millions more nationally.
Here’s an FAQ that explains more about the feature, and see a Comcast video (below) that goes into further detail about the feature. Also see Dwight Silverman’s post on his Houston Chronicle blog for more of the technical aspects of the Xfinity WiFi Home Hotspot.
[Editor’s Note: Comcast Business is a GeekWire sponsor.]