HOME HOTSPOTS? Comcast to revamp metro routers - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

HOME HOTSPOTS? Comcast to revamp metro routers

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With the proliferation of mobile devices, most people often look for wi-fi hotspots. Now, cable giant Comcast hopes to make it easier for its customers by making home routers accessible to others.

The program is already up and running in other major cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. In the next couple of months, it'll debut in the Twin Cities too -- but the plan is already raising privacy and service quality concerns.

Comcast customers who spoke with FOX 9 News seemed to like the idea of providing greater access to the Internet.

"I'm always looking for places to get connected," Eric Herron said.

The service called XFINITY WiFi uses existing customers' wireless routers to create a network of public hotspots that would be free to any Comcast customer. Customers would have to swap out their current equipment for a new wireless gateway that would be able to broadcast a second wi-fi signal providing 25 megabits of extra bandwidth inside their home at no additional charge. That signal can be accessed by the customer or guests.

"They're essentially having their customers build out their public network for them," Patrick Massey, of Network Medics, explained.

Little is known about the hardware itself, but Massey says it likely won't be as robust as other public networks, which cost tens of millions to build.

"I would question how well this service would really work unless you have someone sitting on your front porch surfing your access point," he said.

Yet, it's not the bandwidth Massey is concerned about in the end.

"My first issue would be the security of the public network," he said.

According to Comcast, the data transferred through the in-home networks are secure and completely separate from the XFINITY WiFi network, but the concept still has its critics.

"I think security is always the question," Herron said.

It is important to note that Comcast won't be using its customers' service to make free hotspots. People can pay to use the public wi-fi, but it would be free to Comcast customers and there is also an option to turn the second signal on or off.

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