The signal can be used by visiting Comcast Xfinity customers without the need to share the resident’s private, protected network password. But is the Comcast customer's personal information at risk?
With the flick of a switch, Comcast will soon turn on its new Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots in homes across Southwest Florida.
Last week, the company deployed its latest technology on Florida’s east coast, in Palm Beach and Broward counties, launching hot spots both in private homes and high-traffic outdoor locales, including East Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach and Clematis Street in West Palm Beach.
Outdoor hot spots won’t arrive here until 2015, but the home, or neighborhood ones, will roll out sometime this summer. Residential customers, with Comcast-provided wireless routers installed after October 2011, will automatically get a second signal in their home, at no extra cost. That signal can be used by visiting Xfinity customers, such as a baby sitter or a handyman, without the need to share the resident’s private, protected network password.
“The range is still the same, turning the second signal on doesn’t make it so that it’s suddenly available to the person across the street,” said Cindy Arco, a spokeswoman for Comcast’s Florida Region.
You don’t have to be an Xfinity customer to use the hot spots. Non-customers can get two free 60-minute sessions a month. Beyond that, they can buy the service. It costs $2.95 for an hourly pass, $7.95 for a daily pass, and $19.95 for a weekly pass.
The new service in homes has sparked concerns about privacy, but Comcast representatives say there’s no reason to worry about outsiders getting access to a customer’s personal network, or information, with the launch of the new technology.
“It’s two completely separate networks. It’s not that we are allowing other people to get on to your own home network because it’s two separate signals,” Arco said.
Customers can opt out of the service by logging into their account online, or calling customer service.
Closer to the launch of the neighborhood hot spots, Comcast plans to share more information with its customers in Southwest Florida through emails and letters. For now, many of its Internet users are in the dark about the fast-approaching change.
“I’ve not heard anything about it,” said Estero activist Don Eslick, a Comcast Internet customer.
A second signal in his home wouldn’t make much of a difference in his life, he said. The outdoor hot spots probably won’t benefit the retiree much either.
“I know a lot of people look for Wi-Fi capabilities wherever they go. I’m just not one of them,” he said.
Gail Dolan, who owns a marketing firm based in Cape Coral, described the new technology for residential routers as interesting, but said she doesn’t know whether it will get much use at her home.
“I’m not sure I see the value in that,” she said. “It’s not difficult for guests to use our computer and we only have guests here that we trust.”
As for the outdoor hot spots, she said wireless Internet is “pretty available now.”
Jonathan Tomhave, a Naples resident and writer, said he could have used a Comcast hot spot during filming for a TV pilot he wrote, called “The Alibi Boys,” about two penniless college roommates selling lies and alibis. During filming at a North Naples home recently, Tomhave, an Xfinity residential customer, said he gave out his private network password to several others working on the project, so they could share information about what was happening on the set in real time.
“The issue for us was geography immediately,” he said.
Most of Comcast’s business customers can get a Wi-Fi hot spot at no extra charge when they first order their service, making the Internet available to their customers through a second network. The hot spots can be found at restaurants, retail shops and waiting rooms at doctors’ offices, but the network is protected, requiring a password be shared with the customers of the business.
By the end of the year, Comcast expects to have more than 400,000 Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots available across Florida in homes and outdoors.
The hot spots are about making it easier for Comcast’s existing customers to access the Internet on the go, and making its Xfinity Internet service more attractive to new customers, Arco said.
“People just don’t want it at home,” she said of the Internet. “They want it to be where they are working, where they are playing and where they are eating. ... Where they are drinking coffee.”
Comcast Cable is the nation’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers under the Xfinity brand.
The hot spots are being added around the country and are already available in millions of homes.
“We have seen many examples of companies internationally offering similar features,” Arco said.
Customers can find the hot spots using the Xfinity Wi-Fi app, or by visiting the finder map online at xfinity.com/wifi.
©2014 the Naples Daily News (Naples, Fla.)