Houston Texas has just had about 150,000 Comcast routers activated with a new "xfinitywifi" initiative that effectively makes them wi-fi hotspots. Not just anyone can access these hotspots - you’ll have had to have logged in to Comcast’s system at some point as a customer - but you do not need a unique password for every router you come in contact with. These hotspots are new to Houston, but have been around for a while around the rest of the country.
This week you’ll see a number of stories skipping over the fact that this Xfinity Wifi spread has been in effect for some time. Instead they’ll be pointing toward a new report from this week about the Houston switch-on from the Houston Chronicle. This article (correctly) suggests that the Comcast Xfinity Wifi service switch-on for Houston is brand new.
Several different models of Wi-Fi routers are affected by this change-over, and Comcast does allow the service to be shut off. If you’ve got an Arris Touchstone Telephony Wireless Gateway Modem from Comcast, it’s likely you have or will have "xfinitywifi" turned on at some point. To turn this service off, you have only to do the following:
1. Head to customer.comcast.com and log in with your account details.
2. Click Users & Preferences, See Service Address, Click Manage Xfinity Wi-fi.
3. Click Disable Xfinity Wifi Home Hotspot.
4. Click Save.
If you do not see a "Manage Xfinity Wi-fi" link, you do not have a home hotspot active. If you do not have a home hotspot active, you will not be able to disable it - because it isn’t there.
You may want to do this if you’re worried about maxing out your monthly usage of web - if you have a "Flexible-Data Option" in play. If you have unlimited internet, you shouldn’t have to worry about this Wi-fi sharing option.
You should not be liable for any actions taken on the Xfinity WiFi as it’s set on a different track from your own, but it is still possible that this network is using your monthly allowance of data, if you have a cap. Comcast has been forthcoming about the idea that the data speed at which the Xfinity Wifi works is the same as the one you’re paying for, but hasn’t explicitly said that this WiFi doesn’t take away from your monthly allowance.
You can find business-based public hotspots via hotspots.wifi.comcast.com, but home-based Xfinity Wifi hotspots are only visible to users inside your home. Or standing almost immediately outside your door - which is creepy. They’ll also - again - need to be logged into their own Comcast account with their device, and won’t have access to your computers through the network in any way shape or form.
UPDATE: a Comcast representative has contacted SlashGear with the following notes on their Xfinity Wifi presentation and normal Comcast data caps (or lack thereof).
"We’ve built wireless gateways with two antennas in them. One can be kept private and separate so a customer doesn’t have to share her username or passwords or logins with visitors like baby sitters, friends, family, care givers, etc. The second xfinitywifi SSID can be accessed by other Xfinity Internet subscribers quickly and easily because each subscriber authenticates his or her own device (like a smartphone or tablet) and its mac address is registered and tied to their account.
So if I as an Xfinity Internet customer went to your house and you had this feature, then any usage I would have on the xfinitywifi signal in your house is tied to my account, not yours. So, I can tell you explicitly that the second xfinitywifi signal does not take data usage away from your Internet subscription, it counts against mine.
With respect to data caps, we don’t have a cap. We suspended our prior policy of having a static 250 GB per month data cap in May 2012 nationally. Today, we are conducting some data usage plan trials in select markets. We include 300 GB of data per month and the option to purchase buckets of 50 GB for $10 each. For subscribers in those data plan trial markets, their data usage is counted and tied to their own accounts whether at home or on xfinitywifi." - Comcast Representative
Let us know if you're still confused about what Comcast is doing and/or how it affects you. Do you subscribe to Comcast for data? Let us know!