Comcast thinks it ok to install public wifi in your house

Owen DeLong owen at
Fri Dec 12 00:33:03 UTC 2014

This thread is out of control... I will attempt to summarize the salient points in hopes we can stop arguing about inaccurate minutiae.

I don't like the way Comcast went about doing what they are doing, but I do like the general idea...

Reasonably ubiquitous free WiFi for your subscribers when they are away from their home location is not a bad idea.

The way Comcast has gone about it is a bit underhanded and sneaky. The flaws in their plan are not technical, they are ethical and communication-oriented in nature.

To wit:
	There's nothing wrong with Comcast adding a separate SSID with dedicated upstream bandwidth on a WAP I rent from them[1].
	There's no theft of power, as the amount of additional power used is imperceptible, if any.
	There's no theft of space, climate control, or other overhead as this is performed by existing CPE.
	There's probably no legal liability being transferred by this to the subscriber.

In short, the only thing really truly wrong with this scenario is that Comcast is using equipment that the subscriber should have exclusive control over (they are renting it, so while Comcast retains ownership, they have relinquished most rights of control to the "tenant") how the device is used.

As I see it, there are a couple of ways Comcast could have made this an entirely voluntary (opt-in) program and communicated it to their customers positively and achieved a high compliance rate. Unfortunately, in an action worthy of their title as "America's worst company", instead of positively communicating with their customers and seeking cooperation and permission to build out something cool for everyone, they instead simply inflicted this service on chosen subscribers without notice, warning, or permission.

In short, Comcast's biggest real failure here is the failure to ask permission from the subscriber before doing this on equipment the subscriber should control.

Arguing that some obscure phrase in updated ToS documents that nobody ever reads permits this may keep Comcast from losing a law suit (though I hope not), but it certainly won't improve their standing in the court of public opinion. OTOH, Comcast seems to consider the court of public opinion mostly irrelevant or they would be trying to find ways not to retain their title as "America's worst company".

I will say that my reaction to this, if Comcast had done it to me would be quite different depending on how it was executed...

Scenario A: Positive outcome

CC	"Mr. DeLong, we would like to replace your existing cablemodem with a DOCSIS 3.0 unit and give you faster service
	for free. However, the catch is that we want to put up an additional 2.4Ghz WiFi SSID on the WAP built into the modem
	that will use separate cable channels (i.e. won't affect your bandwidth) that our other subscribers can use once they
	authenticate when they are in range. Would you mind if we did that?"

ME	"Well, since I currently own my modem, and it's already DOCSIS 3, I don't want to give up any of my existing functionality
	and I have no desire to start paying rental fees. If you can provide the new one without monthly fees and it will do everything
	my current one does (e.g. operating in transparent bridge mode), then I don't see any reason why not."

Scenario B: Class Action?

CC	""

ME	-- Discovers Xfinity WiFi SSID and wonders "WTF is this?"
	-- Tracks down source of SSID and discovers CC Modem in my garage is doing this.
	-- Calls Comcast "WTF?"

CC	"blah blah blah, updated ToS, you agreed, blah blah"

ME	Starts calling lawyers


Unfortunately, it seems to me that Comcast (and apparently other Cable WiFi assn. members) have chosen Scenario B. Very unfortunate, considering how much easier and more productive scenario A could be.


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