back to article Mom and daughter SUE Comcast for 'smuggling' public Wi-Fi hotspot into their home

A mother and daughter are suing Comcast claiming the cable giant's router in their home was offering public Wi-Fi without their permission. Comcast-supplied routers broadcast an encrypted, private wireless network for people at home, plus a non-encrypted network called XfinityWiFi that can be used by nearby subscribers. So if …

  1. stizzleswick
    Stop

    Hope they win.

    That is, I am assuming their contract does not state prominently and explicitly that by accepting the terms and conditions they have to accept hosting a public WiFi hotspot.

    If that is not the case, I hope we get to see Comcast burn for this one. Because that's a no-go.

    1. raving angry loony

      Re: Hope they win.

      It's probably in the "extended" contract that the 95 page contract you actually agree to is only a part of. In the fine print, paragraph 323, line 3563, section 432. Written in Swahili then translated using some fly-by-night automatic translation software.

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Hope they win.@raving angry loony

        Yes, and then it was stored in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'.

        Beer icon, because there isn't any Tea.

        1. Andrew Meredith

          Re: Hope they win.@raving angry loony

          Aaaah .. a Douglas Adams quote ... have an upvote !

    2. cyke1

      Re: Hope they win.

      You as a customer can opt out of it and not have it.

      "and places a burden on their bandwidth and electricity bills."

      Thing with what they claim burdens their electricity, that is a stretch since the router is already there using power for your home wifi anyway, the open doesn't incur anymore power then if its off. Bandwidth well, you are not charged for any bandwidth used by the open wifi as that is separate.

      1. Florida1920 Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Hope they win.

        "Bandwidth well, you are not charged for any bandwidth used by the open wifi as that is separate."

        So is it charged to the person using your hot spot? I can see so many ways this can go wrong. Whose IP address is logged when the war driver uses your hot spot to visit terrorists-r-us.com?

        1. cyke1

          Re: Hope they win.

          Its not as open as you think, i think you are still required to login with your comcast account to use those hotspots.

          1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

            Re: Hope they win.

            Its not as open as you think, i think you are still required to login with your comcast account to use those hotspots.

            I don't think that's quite true. I have an uncle who has Concast at his summer cottage where he only pays for internet 4-1/2 months a year but the Xfinity is up all year round. If memory serves from the too much turkey holiday weekend you only have to login to get your Comcast email and such but I was able to surf the net while I was there and I don't recall having to do anything special. Actually, I think even his TV uses it for some damn thing or another. Of course I may be wrong as it's all a bit fuzzy, you understand that side of the family actually goes through far more wine than turkey on the holiday.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hope they win.

              Ah you refer to the nsa username and password built in, the one that feeds all the private stuff over to them through the public interface before it actually is sent to the real destination server itself (like watching a crime unfold before it happens), and all without them needing to know your wifi encryption keys.

              Did you sign up for that? Case closed, comcast wins. Judge roll over let me tickle your tummy.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            FAIL

            Re: Hope they win.

            It's open to anyone with Comcast creds, whether they are actually "their's" is open to guess-work. Next, that's also assuming that the firewall between the Xfinity "Open" network and the local WiFi is absolutely, never-never will fail, secure. I already know of one breach here that I can't patch/mitigate (TCP 32764) in our router. There are more but this is especially egregious if a breach between Xfinity and the local WiFi should occur. There's a lot more where they came from, but why bother. Here we have a choice between Comcast and Comcast. I'm in the city proper (Fresno, CA, USA) and would have to move by a mile in any direction before AT&T would be an option. [There's my emergency MiFi but 3G only and real, real, low cap.]

            I wish her luck, but all that'll happen is that this will drag on for years and nothing will ever come of it. I'll be feeding the worms. Comcast does get its monies worth from their legal beagles.

          3. rpark

            Re: Hope they win.

            ...logins are automatic, when you come within range of an available hotspot.

        2. Ol' Grumpy

          Re: Hope they win.

          BT do this in the UK with their HomeHub product. The public connecting to the public SSID broadcast from your router get completely separate IP addressing to the ones used on your home network. The public user then logs in to an ISP captive portal using their own credentials so the ISP has a way of tracking who was logged in, where they came from and what they did.

          In BT's case, they also claim they put a Quality of Service policy on the router so the home network always takes priority over the public one and therefore your service shouldn't be impacted.

          1. handle

            Affect on network bandwidth

            Ol' Grumpy: "In BT's case, they also claim they put a Quality of Service policy on the router so the home network always takes priority over the public one and therefore your service shouldn't be impacted."

            "shouldn't" is I guess the operative word. Only if transactions were instant would this be the case. Due to the latency of the link, once a data stream has been established, packets can continue to appear from the remote end for a relatively long time even if the local end tries to put a stop to them, potentially saturating the download path and so interfering with downloads the high priority user wishes to make.

            Of course, how much effect this has in practice is open to debate.

          2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Re: Hope they win.

            In BT's case, they also claim they put a Quality of Service policy on the router so the home network always takes priority over the public one and therefore your service shouldn't be impacted.

            And do you get any way of verifying this? Sounds like a great deal for BT as most people won't notice this is part of the deal; if they do, won't understand the implications of this; if they do, won't be in a position to monitor their service based on overall usage; if they are, can be brushed off with a quick "Oops! Our mistake! <CLICKETY-CLICK> There, fixed that for you."

            ISPs in general have a history of selling customers one thing and giving them something entirely less. Why would there be any expectation that things would be different in this case?

        3. MarkMac

          Re: Hope they win.

          If its anything like the BT version, the public and private hotspots have different IP addresses.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hope they win.

        "... the open doesn't incur anymore power then if its off. "

        Dude I agree with you basically, but the above is wrong. If it is on and a ton of people are using it without you knowing, technically the routers CPU, memory and modulator are being hammered. Remember, this isn't exactly a passive signal. But, it's still a small little device.

        But, yeh I agree with what you're generally saying about the power. However, I agree with everything else the woman states entirely. So you can opt out, but why by default are you opted in? Like she states, reduced costs.

        So I guess we can put Comcast on the slimy corp. cork board, but is there room left?

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: Hope they win.

          I think you'll find Comcast has been on the slimy corp. cork board for a long time. See, look there, it's right next to Time Warner, why they're even touching.

          1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Hope they win.

            @ MyBackDoor and Eddy Ito

            No, Comcast stole the slimy cork board, brutally beat a sweet, cookie-baking grandmother with it, then used the bloodied, splintered remains to burn some orphan's Christmas presents >:)

            http://www.cnet.com/news/comcast-wins-worst-company-in-america/

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hope they win.

            Whilst we're on the subject of Time Warner, some of us who've bought into their VoIP service have found the cable modem contains a $35 battery which we have to replace ourselves at our cost when it fails in order to continue having phone service during a power outage! Their equiptment they should umaintain!

            I do wonder how many know their battery has died. As one who has even a vague idea of what the status lights on the modem mean, I doubt my aged neighbors (or fuzzy studies majors) have ever looked at the pretty blinking lights. I''m sure they'll find out in the next earthquake.

            1. Fatman Silver badge

              Re: Hope they win.

              ... who've bought into their VoIP service have found the cable modem contains a $35 battery which we have to replace ourselves at our cost when it fails in order to continue having phone service during a power outage! Their equiptment they should umaintain!

              Which is why I told Verizon to Fuck Off when they tried to foist a FiOS upgrade on me. I had already heard about that one from a business acquaintance who got stung!

      3. stizzleswick
        Stop

        @cyke1

        "You as a customer can opt out of it and not have it."

        The point is, really, that it should not be opt-out in the first place. Imagine buying a car which, by factory default, gives you about 5 mpg unless you opt-out (in writing, in triplicate, with a copy to the commissioner of whatever...), after which it will give you about 50 mpg. Would you accept that as proper business practice?

        I didn't think so...

        Opt-out deals should, in my personal opinion, not be allowed to even be offered. Many customers do not make the effort to go through all the tiny print and then call up their representative, fill in all the forms, send them in to the right department, and so on and so on.

        If people want a service, they will be willing to opt-in. So let the providers offer opt-in stuff instead of basically trying to sell the whole boathouse to everybody who just wants a paddle.

        1. John Tserkezis

          Re: @cyke1

          "Imagine buying a car which, by factory default, gives you about 5 mpg"

          That analogy doesn't work. What might be more accurate, is to say you buy a car, and in the fine print you didn't read, allows random strangers to temporarily sit in for a ride. That is, you notice people randomly come in for a ride, and randomly leave again.

          Additional fuel consumption might be a bit hard to claim, because as I understand it, they don't count that additional bandwidth towards your own plan. Additional power? As above, good luck with that, you're talking fractions of cents.

          But what you WILL notice is there is less space, thus carrying capacity in your car - at random intervals. I don't know how or IF the Comcast hardware prioritises the traffic to the actual owner rather than the "borrower".

          I don't remember about Comcast, but I do remember this similar thing happening with a number of carriers. I'm quite sure it's in the contract somewhere - even if the bastards had to bury it in a sub-section translated from Swahilii.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @cyke1

            "because as I understand it, they don't count that additional bandwidth towards your own plan"

            My experience, across multiple vendors in multiple areas in the US is that they never, ever deliver anything close to the actual bandwidth they sell you ( because buried in the contract is the fact that 50MB plan actually means up to, not actual). So, yes, the bandwidth siphoned off to passers-by is coming right off what you can no longer used for yourself. Which is why, I closed my wireless network - I have no issue sharing with my neighbours, but some were taking the piss and using all my bandwidth. I didn't have the patience to work out who or deploy QoS

        2. chris 17 Bronze badge
          WTF?

          Re: @cyke1

          @stizzleswick

          they purchased a package that as part of the service included a public wifi facility or whatever, which if the bill payer wanted could be disabled. They subscribed to a complete package that included that facility. Its like buying a car that includes see through windows and the salesman offering to tint the windows any time you want and then complaining that the windows are not tinted. Any normal person would just accept the offer to free of charge rectify the issue.

          1. Fluffy Bunny
            Childcatcher

            Re: @cyke1

            "Any normal person would just accept the offer to free of charge rectify the issue."

            Sorry to burst your bubble, but they already talked to a laywer. Now they have a leach to feed, this is going to go through the worst and most expensive of all possible paths before resolution. A favourite saying of mine is that "there is no problem, no matter how twisted and unresolvable it may seem, that you can't get a couple of lawyers into a room together and make it a whole lot worse."

            We need an "I'm a lawyer and I'm here to help you" icon.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. BitManipulator

        Re: Hope they win.

        Sorry to p*ss all over that comment of yours but it lacks a fundamental mis-understand of two key points here.

        1) Electronic devices consume varying levels of power depending on load. If you use your Wi-Fi rarely, it is consuming less power than if it's at full load because a load of random strangers are using it 24 hours a day.

        2) It doesn't matter if they're not charging you for bandwidth, the total possible bandwidth is limited, if your connection can do 20Mbps (for example) and the open hotspot users are taking up, lets say 15Mbps, you end up getting only 5Mpbs throughput of the 20 you're paying for.

        That's not to mention the fact that you have an open network on a piece of hardware you have little access to or understanding of at a low level as a vector for attack for anyone that fancies attempting to gain entry, or merely deny service, while all the time you think you're safely logging in to your internet banking or streaming the WiFi cam of your sleeping child.

        tl;dr: Yes, it will take more power, and yes it will use your bandwidth.

      5. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Hope they win.

        Thing with what they claim burdens their electricity, that is a stretch since the router is already there using power for your home wifi anyway, the open doesn't incur anymore power then if its off.

        I'm no expert in the matter, but I would imagine a router broadcasting and receiving wireless signals at a strength required to penetrate walls and provide a reliable connection to someone outside your home would draw more power than one not doing this. What with the inverse-square law and all that, I would be very surprised if it didn't work in the same way as your mobile phone does, which broadcasts a stronger signal when the mast signal is weaker.

        Also, I don't see how anyone could argue that it doesn't degrade the bandwidth. Given that bandwidth is finite (lets call it a), and some of it is being used (lets call that b), a - b < a if b > 0.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I Hope they Lose

          Except that most home users will never come anywhere near using their 20 MB of bandwidth during normal use. More like < 1 MB on average, unless you are downloading porn files 24 /7. Check the bandwidth meter on your router if you know where to find it.

          The arguments about power consumption are equally ridiculous, spineless and stupid. This is not a washer/dryer, it is a home router, for f*ks sake. Can't wait to see what a ComCast engineer or legal expert does with that argument in court. Maybe they will offer 2 cents in damages.

          Personally, I think the whole thing is silly and just shows what is wrong with US tort law, big time, and its obsession with sueballs.

          I don't like COMCAST either, but sharing WiFi amongst fellow home users is a great idea.

          Particularly, if you are moving about and need wifi in a strange city.

          As I recall, on my own router, external public users are throttled to 15 % of available bandwidth. And yes, they do have to login with their subscriber user name and password.

          Full disclosure, I live in an isolated country village, not an apartment block or city. Consequently, I do not have public wifi enabled on my home router. There is no one within range to use the hotspot and I don't particularly want to attract war drivers or walkers. If someone must have an internet connection for life or death reasons, they can knock on my door.

          As long as that public wifi disabling option is available to the subscriber, I really don't see where the problem is. It is a nice feature for customers. If lived in a crowded area, I would probably enable it and encourage others to do the same.

          But it's much easier to be a mean git and just sue a big company, isn't it? Never mind the facts. They will probably argue it is a menace to public security or some other bullshit, just to make it entertaining.

          She's a paralegal. I suspect one of her fellow professional, ambulance-chasing parasites told her it would be a great idea to sue and that (s)he would take the case on contingency.

          America, land of the free and the selfish......... I honestly hope they lose and get smacked with a countersuit or whatever it is lawyers do to each other in these circumstances. Then they can clog up the courts a little longer while others wait in jail for their day in court.

      6. Indolent Wretch

        Re: Hope they win.

        Not charged possibly... However how do they handle your bandwidth allocation?

        If I had 2mbs and strangers wandering past were using some of it I would be aggrieved.

        Or do they sell you 2mbs, actually wire in 4mbs, and that extra 2 is solely for the public wifi.

        Hopefully the subscribers could then multiplex it.

        1. Avalanche

          Re: Hope they win.

          Usually, talking about cable, the potential bandwidth is larger than the bandwidth provisioned to your account. The bandwidth for these free wifi hotspots are usually provisioned separately from the bandwidth of your account.

          So apart from potential increased congestion in the local area, or signal problems degrading the available total bandwidth, these free hotspots do not have any impact on the bandwidth of the subscriber.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hope they win.

          My experience is that they sell you 50 MB , wire in 20 to the building, and deliver 10

          1. rpark

            Re: Hope they win.

            ...and keep selling you up, for just another $10/mo.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hope they win.

        In the US (and especially with cable companies, which is what Comcast are) you are not charged for bandwidth. They sell you a, say, 50 MB package and then deliver a small fraction of that, because they are evil and corrupt. For instance, I pay for a 50 MB connection and the best I ever get is 25-30, and on Friday nights when all my neighbours are trying to stream Netflix, I struggle to get 1-2 MB.

        So Comcast are selling her a package, almost certainly delivering much less than that, and then siphoning off even more bandwidth to sell to passers-by.

        They are evil bastards

      8. zen1

        @cyke1 Re: Hope they win.

        "Bandwidth well, you are not charged for any bandwidth used by the open wifi as that is separate."

        Sorry, I neither beleive nor find that practice to be ethical. As a subscriber I pay "X" per month with the expection I will be able to connect with a certain amount of bandwidth. The amount of bandwidth that a SoHo router/ap can process is fininte as is the frequency of any wireless signal they are broadcasting. IE, wireless is not compartmentalized like a true switched environment, and even if they are broadcasting a seperate ssid that's supposedly isolated from from the network I access, unless they have multiple frequency transceivers in those modems, which I doubt because because they are so notoriously cheap, so I am fighting for the bandwidth on the network that's broadcasting inside my home. Furthermore, who's to say this won't be abused by non-comcast subscribers who get account info from a friend?

        Not only would I rip their equipment out of my home and replace it with something I've purchased, but they would get it back as I throw its pieces out the window of my car as I'm driving by their office.

        And I'm sorry, cellular providers pay the property owners to lease the small plot of land their towers take up. The same rules of engagement should apply to the wireless network that's accessible from inside my house. I'm already paying an obscene amount for their services, at the very least they should off set it should I decide to OPT IN. I should not have to opt out to have my network unhijacked.

        Finally, I will conceed that they own the public facing address of any broad band modem, but anything that originates from my modem, whether it be 10.x.x.x, 172.x.x.x or 192.168.x.x is mine. period.

        1. rpark

          Re: @cyke1 Hope they win.

          ...My Techicolor TC8305C router is an 802.11n (single band Wi-Fi 802.11n - 2.4GHz 3x3 with optional 200mW high power) but, if you have the TC8717 (dual band concurrent high power Wi-Fi - 802.11n 2.4GHz and 802.11ac 5GHz 3x3) then your bandwidth dilution will be minimal. I TOTALLY agree with you though, because its like being raped in your sleep and then finding out about it later-- you were still violated (but you apparently agreed to being raped, in your sleep, when you signed the disclaimer).

        2. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: @cyke1 Hope they win.

          Maybe they have already applied an appropriate discount?

          "And I'm sorry, cellular providers pay the property owners to lease the small plot of land their towers take up. The same rules of engagement should apply to the wireless network that's accessible from inside my house. I'm already paying an obscene amount for their services, at the very least they should off set it should I decide to OPT IN. I should not have to opt out to have my network unhijacked."

      9. Someone Else Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Hope they win.

        You as a customer can opt out of it and not have it.

        Well, yes and no. You "opt out" by returning their updated cable modem. So what do you use for a cable modem, then? You can use your old one...until they disable it. Or, you can go out and buy a cable modem of your own (about $60).

        That's been my experience with Comcast (I opted for the 3rd option). YMMV.

      10. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hope they win.

        The AUDACITY. Opt out!? Why are you are defending Com-corrupt? If you knew anything about the company or electrical engineering, you would appreciate you've just stepped into a pile of goo Boo-Boo. Com-poster QoS prioritizes their public WiFi over the paying customer, squats on private equipment stealing others juice, exposes private network to potential DoS when flooded with public utilization and quack hackers who jam up perfectly good folks for a grin. Dumb stuff.

      11. sisk Silver badge

        Re: Hope they win.

        Bandwidth well, you are not charged for any bandwidth used by the open wifi as that is separate.

        Bandwidth in this context, as most on El Reg will be aware, is in reference to how much data the line can handle at any given moment. If you'll forgive the 'superhighway' analogy, think of your bandwidth as a four lane highway for data to travel, with each packet of data being a car. Then, when someone else gets on, you only have two lanes available for your own traffic. Therefore it takes longer for your data to get fully transferred.

      12. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Blahman

      Re: Hope they win.

      Hope they win too, not because of the probably unfounded bandwidth and electricity burden. The only argument that should be needed is that running a public access point in their own home without permission is simply not on. And they can tell Comcast to bugger off without needing a valid reason.

    4. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      Re: Hope they win.

      The lawyers will win.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      Re: Hope they win.

      My router does that too, I don't see a problem.

      It probably draws some extra power when someone connects to it. In the order of the power consumption of one of the bulbs in the Xmas lighting that the pair probably have all over the house.

      It doesn't impact my bandwidth in any significant way (QoS does work, it would seem).

      In fact it's so negligible that I actually installed a second "open" spot using Fon. That way, on the move I can benefit from my ISP's hotspots AND Fon's ones, should one of the networks not be available in the area.

  2. DougS Silver badge

    What if someone uses it to download copyrighted movies or child porn?

    Does anyone want to bet that Comcast is able to determine it came from the public hotspot instead of the homeowner? If they can tell that, there's the out for the homeowner to use the public hotspot instead of their private wifi to download illegal content, send email to ISIS asking for a membership application, etc.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: What if someone uses it to download copyrighted movies or child porn?

      RTFM " that can be used by nearby subscribers"

      Since the free "public" wifi is for subscribers, that strongly suggests that you need to use your Comcast subscriber ID details to connect, so they know who you are and where you connect.

    2. Florida1920 Silver badge

      Re: What if someone uses it to download copyrighted movies or child porn?

      "So if you're passing by a fellow user's home, you can lock onto their public Wi-Fi, log in using your Comcast username and password, and use that home's bandwidth."

      I suppose that handles my concern too, but the people who send out black helicopters may not understand the distinction between username and IP address. This 'feature' doesn't seem to work on my own-bought wireless router/modem.

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

        Re: What if someone uses it to download copyrighted movies or child porn?

        suppose that handles my concern too, but the people who send out black helicopters may not understand the distinction between username and IP address. This 'feature' doesn't seem to work on my own-bought wireless router/modem.

        O...K. In for some explaining: these routers broadcast 2 different networks, with different APs, and different IP spaces. One is yours to fiddle with, you can encrypt to your heart's content and it takes precedence in the case of a bandwidth limitation. The other is managed directly by your ISP, is open to all connections but requires a webpage-based login (using credentials valid with the ISP). It also only uses "leftover" bandwidth, for which you are, quite obviously, not charged.

        Whether you like the idea or not, it doesn't draw any significant power (I would estimate in the milliwatt range) and should not impact your traffic speed.

        It is also operated directly by the network operator (here, the ISP) and thus completely unrelated to your account AND your IP, no black helicopters for you.

        In some cases (e.g. Fon), non-subscribers can connect on a pay-per-minute basis, and the hotspot "owner" can choose to receive some of that money (as for me I didn't bother giving my Paypal ID to receive what amounts to pennies; still would pay more than the added 'leccy bill though).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What if someone uses it to download copyrighted movies or child porn?

      I think installing it in churches is forbidden in the terms.

      1. handle

        Re: What if someone uses it to download copyrighted movies or child porn?

        Churches are where all the mobile phone masts are hidden instead, conveniently providing those facilities...

    4. Number6

      Re: What if someone uses it to download copyrighted movies or child porn?

      I have my modem in bridge mode talking to my own router/access point. The modem still appears to have its own IP address 67.something, whereas the IP address of my router is 50.something. I am guessing that if the public wifi is still functional with the modem in bridge mode, it's going to be using the 67.something IP.

      If all else fails I can put the modem in a biscuit tin with a couple of mesh-covered holes for ventilation.

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

        Re: What if someone uses it to download copyrighted movies or child porn?

        I am guessing that if the public wifi is still functional with the modem in bridge mode, it's going to be using the 67.something IP.

        It's going to use an IP attributed directly by the provider to the "guest" authenticating to it, and it's going to be different from the one the operator gives you.

  3. Ole Juul

    a "vast" burden on electricity bills

    I solved that problem a long time ago when I converted my router to propane. Now, I just sit back and watch the savings roll in.

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: a "vast" burden on electricity bills

      I solved that problem a long time ago when I converted my router to propane. Now, I just sit back and watch the savings roll in.

      Hank? Is that you?

    2. Unicornpiss Silver badge

      Re: a "vast" burden on electricity bills

      Propane is so gauche. Mine runs on biodiesel, sourced only from vegan restaurants, where it is changed after every 4 hours of cooking plantains.

    3. Irongut

      Re: a "vast" burden on electricity bills

      Clean burnin', fast downloadin' propane. Is there anything it can't do?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No Problem

    Because we know the routers are highly secure and there is no way someone can't break into the home network from the public side.

    I just checked with Bigfoot and he confirmed with Elvis the above statement is true.

    1. ian 22

      Re: No Problem

      Bah. Neither Elvis nor Bigfoot are reliable sources. You should've looked it up on Wikipedia instead. Far more reliable. Joseph Stalin told me so.

  5. P. Lee Silver badge

    Actually a good idea

    Not sure if comcast went about it in the right way though.

    Personally, I'd prefer a 4g phone cell tagged on rather than wifi, with free 4g for the cell hosters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Actually a good idea

      BT have been doing this for years with their Home Hub. I immediately disposed of the Home Hub.

      1. scrubber
        Angel

        Re: BT Home Hub

        I quite like it - gives me wiggle room for reasonable doubt when I get the court case I so richly deserve.

      2. Steve 114
        Thumb Up

        Re: Actually a good idea

        I've let mine run for a bit, because the quid pro quo is you get to use a wide range of BT-enabled hotspots free, including some associates abroad.

  6. Shannon Jacobs
    Holmes

    Wow, I can't decide who is more selfish here

    The only basis I see for the lawsuit is to judge who is more selfish, but I'd be inclined to rule against the mother here. Yes, Comcast is double-dipping, essentially reselling the same access point, but that also means they are offering better service to other customers without incurring the extra costs. If the security is implemented properly (but perhaps it should be a big IF when you consider the latest security fiascoes such as Sony's), then there are no privacy problems there.

    The only possibly valid part would be if the electricity usage is significantly different because of this double-dipping, and I'm basically certain it isn't. If the hot spot is active enough for that to be a concern, then Comcast is going to add some more hotspots in the area. If they relied on the single hotspot for a bunch of customers, and it goes down, they would get too many headaches (in addition to all of the regular complaints about poor throughput on the heavily loaded hotspot). Not in their interest to create such imbalance.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is suing someone the best response?

    Why not just change providers?

    If you are upset, get Comcast to release you from any contract costs.

    Try some other ISP.

    Or is suing someone the American first response to everything?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Is suing someone the best response?

      Ah.... you're not in 'Merica are you? Competition amongst ISP's is a joke. Some folks are lucky to even have 1 ISP. Any city area has only 1 broadband ISP for hardwire due to old monopolistic contracts signed back in the early days of cable. This has been discussed on El Reg many times before in almost all the "Net Neutrality" and merger articles.

    2. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: Is suing someone the best response?

      "Or is suing someone the American first response to everything?"

      No, but sometimes it's the only way to get these megacorps to actually listen to the little guy being trodden underfoot!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is suing someone the best response?

      Not sure in her location, but in many parts of the states ComCast and Time Warner have near monopoly status in their respective territories.

      Sometime there are no other options if you want cable speed (and it is slow enough as it is.)

      1. rpark

        Re: Is suing someone the best response?

        ...we're rather behind the times compared to Europe, UK and France had ISDN Minitel phones in the 80's-- the US didn't get ADSL until the 90's.

  8. jimbo60

    completely nuts!

    This whole suit is completely nuts. Huge increases in power usage? From a device that at most uses 50W (and probably only when charging an empty internal battery)? Does that household's electrical appliance inventory consist of one LED light bulb (and no computer)?

    The hot spot is not public. It's open, security-wise, but all you get is a login web page. You have to log in with your Comcast subscriber info to gain access to anything. It shows up as a distinct SSID ("xfinitywifi") from the customer's own.

    Whether you agree or not, Comcast advertises it as a benefit. You might share some of their bandwidth going to your modem with others, but you also benefit from being able to use the feature when you are away from home. At least that's the theory; I've never even bothered to look for it, as I have tethering on my phone and just use that when I'm not around free Wi-Fi spots.

    I do have Comcast service and they enabled it on my (actually their) modem. If I hadn't know about it (from Comcast advertising) I'd never even have known it was there, it would've been just another mystery SSID popping up. I suppose I might notice if someone started pumping gigabytes of bandwidth through my connections, but that's not likely. I'm not located in a dense urban area, so someone would have to be parked in my driveway or visiting my house or my neighbor to actually use the capability. So in that regard I don't care that it's turned on, and if I have a guest that wants to use it, then that just means I don't have to give them my own guest access keys.

    So for me it's really a no-op.

    1. solo

      Re: completely nuts!

      Suing for a few units of electricity and few kilobytes sounds amusingly justified when compared to how these big corps cheat by using their teeny weeny FINE prints in their megacount of characters of agreements.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: completely nuts!

        "Suing for a few units of electricity and few kilobytes sounds amusingly justified when compared to how these big corps cheat by using their teeny weeny FINE prints in their megacount of characters of agreements."

        It might be the only thing they can get the bastards on. See Al Capone and tax evasion.

    2. kevjs

      Re: completely nuts!

      If it's anything like the BTWifi-with-Fon hot spots on BT customer routers in the uk then the "public" side of it will have a very restricted bandwidth (1mbps here IIRC) which depending on your package and line sync speed will have no effect on your own connection speed regardless of how well used it is.

      1. Haku

        Re: completely nuts!

        "If it's anything like the BTWifi-with-Fon hot spots on BT customer routers in the uk then the "public" side of it will have a very restricted bandwidth (1mbps here IIRC) which depending on your package and line sync speed will have no effect on your own connection speed regardless of how well used it is."

        I actually did some tests on this with my own BT Infinity 2 connection regarding bandwidth available to BTWIFI hotspot users, see this previous El Reg post of mine for the results:

        http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2014/08/06/bt_bills_customers_for_using_free_fon_wifi_hotspots/#c_2263844

        and

        http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/2/2014/08/06/bt_bills_customers_for_using_free_fon_wifi_hotspots/#c_2264458

    3. Minang

      Re: completely nuts!

      Then I guess you have no problem with Comcast charging you $8.00 a month rental for the privilege of hosting the hotspot.

      1. Haku

        Re: completely nuts!

        "Then I guess you have no problem with Comcast charging you $8.00 a month rental for the privilege of hosting the hotspot."

        HAS EVERYONE (well, a lot of commentators) BEEN TAKING EXCESS AMOUNTS OF STUPID PILLS RECENTLY?!

        The hotspot can be turned off, users of it can't get access to your own LAN, and as an Xfinity user you have the ability to use other people's Xfinity hotspots, just like BTWIFI.

  9. Bob 18

    I agree with jimbo60, it shouldn't be a big deal. But if she doesn't like it, she can buy her own router rather than using the one Comcast provided. That's what I did, and it's a whole lot easier than launching a lawsuit. Saves $5/mo too. Since that option is available to all Comcast customers, I don't see how she has much of a case.

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge

    It does seem strange...

    I can imagine doing "selected" customers for this with their knowledge but it sounds like every customer has a public hotspot. So an apartment building could have hundreds (some really large apartment buildings)????

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: It does seem strange...

      You mean just a large apartment building could have lots of private encrypted wifi points all fighting over the same 11-13 channels?

      business as usual then. I believe the Access points don't use a channel for each public/private hotspot but rather one for the pair.

  11. Gray
    FAIL

    It's a matter of trust

    Our household is a Comcast customer. We have no choice. They are the only cable franchise allowed in the city; their municipal contract assures a monopoly position. So going to another provider is not an option. This is America, not the land of free choice.

    We were informed a few months ago that Comcast would provide a new cable modem/wifi router combination device. The email contained a link for further information. After I clicked that link to investigate the offer, I was startled to see that merely by clicking that link, we had "authorized" the Comcast equipment. I was able to find no other information on their website, except a promise of "greater customer satisfaction" and "increased speed potential," etc. etc.

    I chased down a private contractor who installs Comcast cable service; he offered that an upgraded cable modem was necessary due to new protocol requirements, but he knew little about the built-in wifi router side of it.

    Being untrusting, I bought a new Motorola cable modem and installed it, while retaining our existing TP-Link wifi router. The Comcast package arrived, was opened and inspected, and set aside. If Comcast wants it back, they can send someone to pick it up.

    The issue of the Comcast wi-fi hotspot provided through their "free" equipment was never mentioned; no authorization obtained; and nothing was said in the literature accompanying the equipment package. We knew nothing of this issue until this Register article popped up this evening.

    As I told my wife as we shopped for a new cable modem at WalMart: "It's a $70+ purchase, but we'll own it, they can't lease it back to us, and more importantly ... I simply cannot trust them!" For once, I can grin at my wife and say, "See? I told you ... we can't trust those bastards!"

  12. smenor

    I hate Comcast but isn't this just exactly what free.fr does ?

  13. iRadiate

    do the mother and daughter

    Make use of other 'public' WiFi hotspots that originate from within other peoples homes?.

    If I were Comcast I'd look at their account history to see how often they've done that.

    Should still be an opt-in but I suspect they make use of that service themselves when out and about.

  14. heyrick Silver badge

    Orange (France) does exactly this

    A recent(ish, 2012) update to the Livebox added hotspot support and turned it on by default.

    You can elect to turn it off, but if you do this, you will not be eligible to use any other public hotspot. It's a sort of share-alike applied to hotspots...

  15. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Doesn't BT already do this in the UK?

    The last time I was in the UK it seemed that I could access Wi-Fi all over the place using the same BT access code that I was given at the place I was staying.

    Most of the commentards here seem to be clue-free today.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Doesn't BT already do this in the UK?

      I also run a 'come and slurp' router.

      I then go and slurp from others.

      Seems fair to me.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't BT already do this in the UK?

      First thing that occurred to me, the BT homehub does this and has done for several years now.

      I went to Virgin to avoid BT as their shared wifi homehub bothered me. I took VM's shitty Superbhub and put my own kit behind it so the scumbag's router is on a different subnet from my internal network and I firewall them outside. They're more than welcome to go into their superhub and even watch the traffic passing through but their not getting in to snoop directly on what I've connected.

      1. handle

        Re: Doesn't BT already do this in the UK?

        Instead of trying to impress us with your paranoia about security (would Virgin really snoop on data flowing around your LAN?), why didn't you just say what we all know - the Virgin Superhub is a crap wifi router and replacing that functionality with a third party device makes the whole experience far better?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Doesn't BT already do this in the UK?

        Unlike Virgin, BT doesn't care what hardware you use. You could unplug their homehub and use any compatible router.

        Virgin requires you to keep using that Superturd regardless of what you have running off the back of it

        1. handle

          Re: Doesn't BT already do this in the UK?

          @AC Yes but I believe the Superhub actually provides the subscriber's identity and bandwidth throttling so can't possibly be replaced by a generic device. They're not just being bloody minded - in fact they're being rather helpful by allowing you to switch off all non-essential functions and use your own router/firewall/access point - "modem mode".

    3. Yugguy

      Re: Doesn't BT already do this in the UK?

      Hehe - you can't do it on MY homehub cos I got the cnts to immediately disable it.

      That said I'll be ditching it as soon as its range is beyond awful.

      And NO, BT, you're NOT the only ones that do openreach modems you LYING sacks of crap.

      And that bloke who I spoke to on the phone, with the very strong Indian accent. His name is NOT Dave. We're never going to get along are we, if you start the conversation off with a lie.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UPC does this too

    UPC in Hungary, Switzerland and as far as I know in several other countries does this too. They call it Wi-Free. It also gives their customers free wifi access in other countries. In the case of UPC Hungary I had to get a password for this and I find a nice convenient free wifi as I move around the country. In theory you can not log on to your own Wi-Free router, but nothing prevents you logging on to your neighbour's. You have the option of disabling this service if you do not like it. It does not effect your own speed and monthly limit, if any. I see no extra problem with hackers, I can not see how hacking a system like this would be much easier than hacking your regular wifi router.

  17. Anonymous Cowherder

    BT Do this with my infinity router, I'm fine with it.

    I've been doing this on my BT routers for years, not got a problem with it. I use the service when I'm out and about, it is usually easier to connect to similarly shared BT-Open or whatever it is called than to ask the person for their wifi password.

    Ferchrisakes, if this is all the mom and daughter have to lose sleep about they are doing fine and dandy.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: BT Do this with my infinity router, I'm fine with it.

      Mom's a paralegal, that says it all!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BT Do this with my infinity router, I'm fine with it.

        Sounds like Mom wants to be an F Lee Bailey know legal figure before she's even fully qualified

  18. FunkyEric
    Mushroom

    I find BTWifi-with-FON annoying

    When I get home my phone connects to that rather than my home network giving me a shit service until I remember and manually kick it over to the right network. I have never found it to be useful as it is *always* so pitifully slow to be unusable. What a complete waste of time! Grrrrrr.... Maybe I should sue them for wasting my time! aha!

    1. Anonymous Cowherder

      Re: I find BTWifi-with-FON annoying

      I had this for a while till I changed the settings on my phone to forget the BT-FON network, now it only connects to my SSID.

      1. handle

        @cowherder

        But then you no longer get the benefit of any other hotspot!

  19. David Roberts Silver badge
    Joke

    Class action, you say? Paralegal?

    Just checking, but which ever way this goes somebody is going to fill a pocket or two with cash for all the legal work.

    So, is fronting a class action suit a nice little earner whichever way it goes?

    Or am I just being cynical about US lawsuits.

    They don't seem to be really trying anyway as they don't claim that the roaming wifi actively encourages terrism, and helps anonymise pro-choice activists.

  20. Michael 28

    quick question

    if... and a brief if... somebody were able to create a password generator for said companies wi-fi spots and ...say... used it to download copyrighted material. What's the homeowners rights/responsibilities?

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      Re: quick question

      used it to download copyrighted material. What's the homeowners rights/responsibilities?

      None. The "open" networks are operated separately, directly by the provider (including auth).

      The owner of the account you'd have mimmicked, on the other hand, could be in trouble.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: quick question

      "What's the homeowners rights/responsibilities?"

      I would fully expect to have no responsibilities. The "orange" public AP requires the user to log into it in some method (usually mobile phone number and some short passphrase that was texted to you when you first set up the phone), and that done, it provides a completely separate IP address to the public connection. So if a person logged in to my AP and ripped off Frozen (or whatever is hot), the IP address would not match mine. Furthermore, Orange should be able to tell from the login credentials who was connected at that time. It may be a borrowed identity, but I don't care, it isn't me, anything beyond that is their problem.

      [thought: if Orange have upgraded all the Liveboxes to support public AP functions, and they can all now have two IP(v4) addresses....um....]

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages for themselves

    at least I applaud the honesty. Soon (or late) we will hear about the settlement for an "undisclosed amount", etc.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages for themselves

      "Soon (or late) we will hear about the settlement for an "undisclosed amount", etc."

      not sure about that, there are Judges in the U.S. who say 'Oh FFS, grow up' to those with dollar signs in thier eyes.

  22. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    She should also claim for...

    Grear – a paralegal – and her daughter claim the Xfinity hotspot is an unauthorized intrusion into their private home, places a "vast" burden on electricity bills, opens them up to attacks by hackers, and "degrades" their bandwidth.

    She should add to that list: "encourages creepy males to park outside of her house at all hours of the day and night, putting her and her daughter in fear of assault and causing both psychological and emotional anxiety and distress; and defaming them by misleading neighbours into thinking they operate a house of ill repute". That should be worth another $100m on the suit.

  23. BernardL
    Black Helicopters

    UPC Ireland have had this for a while on their Infinity DVR/WiFi boxes. They are rolling it out as an o/s update for their older routers now. They sent me an email about it, which tells you how to opt-out.

    Opting-out is the first issue, it should be opt-in. That assumption by big business STILL hasn't been fixed. Second issue is that you have to log in to your account online, and click on a button to opt-out - you don't do that on the router itself.

    A few years ago I would have said that sharing a small part of your WiFi was a public-spirited act. Now, It's just another way for yet another company (your ISP) to track your movements.

  24. gerdesj

    Wouldn't it be awful

    Many WiFi bridges nowadays support multiple SSIDs.

    Imagine the chaos that might ensue if non-subscribers started advertising SSIDs that say BT and Comcast use, but which go nowhere or even worse end up in a sort of tar pit at 1KBs-1.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: If one were so inclined

      It would probably be quite trivial to not only set up a box with a familiar BT or Comcast SSID that not only provided poor service, but could also be used to slurp authentication (and other) data from the connected device.

      I imagine setting up a WiFi trap like that would break a law or two somewhere. Although I once heard of a guy that got so annoyed with his neighbours sneaking onto his router that he invented the upside-down-ternet

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tin foil

    that is all...

  26. hazzamon

    CAn't see this doing too well in court.

    Just had a quick look at the Comcast Residential Agreement (Link)

    Section 6.b.1. says that Comcast can send code updates to your router at any time they like; that these updates can change, add, or remove features; and that these updates can be used to provide features not just to the customer (i.e. you), but also others. It also explicitly mentions this WiFi hotspot function when explaining this.

    I am going to guess that this agreement will be the defence's 'Exhibit A'.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: CAn't see this doing too well in court.

      It would be fascinating to see the software update that would enable WiFi on my cable modem, since it has no physical radios. Not to say that Comcast are either devils or saints (does that cover my ass libel-wise?), but using their router, rather than just their modem, has been a very bad idea for a very long time.

      (Yes, I am aware of the hacks to play music over AM radios by carefully orchestrated access to core memories, back in the day, but that was Tx only, and the bandwidth was very low, even by Comcast standards)

  27. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
    Joke

    I'm off to set up a SSID

    Called 'Comcast hub' to harvest people's login details...

    Joke alert, because obviously I don't want to get caught doing this - I am simply highlighting the idiocy of trusting that a random access point is what it says it is and giving it sensitive credentials.

  28. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Why do I imagine

    Dogbert has something to do with this lawsuit

  29. Nigel 9
    Devil

    Wait a moment....

    Errr.... Isnt this EXACTLY what BT Broadband do in the UK with Openzone on the HomeHubs?

  30. Steve Mann

    Bah!

    It is intolerable that these Wi-Fi "hotspots" are set up in peoples' homes without warning.

    Their houses could burn down.

    I advise all Comcast customers to throw a bucket of water over their router as a precaution.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comcast is so unscrupulous

    Comcast should be fined BILLIONS for this kind of fraud.

    How many Comcast U.S. customers know that international e-mail sent to them by family, friends, business colleagues, etc. are typically blocked by Comcast even though subscribers are paying for this service?

    As if this isn't bad enough Comcast wants to merge with Time Werner for a complete U.S. monopoly.

    Just to get a reference point on how Comcast operates, check the FCC and FTC conviction files. It should be an eye opener for anyone in doubt.

    http://www.ftc.gov/

    http://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cases/2009/04/090416comcastcmpt.pdf

    http://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cases/2009/04/090416comcaststipjdgmt.pdf

    Filing a complaint at the FTC and FCC website regarding Comcast's illegal Wi-Fi Hot spot in homes, and illegal blockage of legitimate international e-mail to U.S. subscribers will help convict these criminals and resolve some of the many problems Comcast has perpetrated on subscribers.

    https://esupport.fcc.gov/ccmsforms/form2000.action?form_type=2000A

    https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1

    If you don't speak up when asked you are doomed to suffer severely.

  32. Inachu

    Now if you own your NETWORK router and was never supplied by comcast then yes you can sue them but if you are renting the cable router then you can not sue.

    Just the way I see it.

  33. zen1

    and another thing

    Everybody pisses and bemoans about how the rich or the have's are exploiting those less fortunate that they and a substantial amount of the posts in here are either neutral about or defending Comcast. By forcing us to opt out rather than opt in, they are exploting us and our property space for their gain.

  34. Not That Andrew

    Did Reddit spill over or something? the discussion on El Reg is hardly elevated, but this is at a new low.

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