Comcast looking to add millions of new Wi-Fi hotspots

SEATTLE -- Comcast is trying to add possibly millions of public Wi-Fi hotspots across the country and is doing so by piggybacking on its customers' home Wi-Fi gateways.

Xfinity Wi-Fi is Comcast's attempt to expand free Wi-Fi access points for its existing internet customers so they won't have to use up their cellular data plans to access the internet. It's also intended to allow a secure second network that guests of the Comcast customer can use.

But some online commentators have publicly questioned Comcast's motives for charging non-customers access to Xfinity Wi-Fi that is being provided by Comcast's customers. Home customers supply the electricity and pay a monthly fee to comcast to lease the wireless modem.

Any Comcast customer can use their login to access any of these neighborhood hotspots for free. But non-customers can access the networks too for free for one hour. After that, it's $2.95 for an additional hour, $7.95 for the day and $19.95 for a week.

A spokesman for Comcast says the new Arris Wireless Gateways that Comcast is installing for customers to lease provides two wireless network signals. One for the home user and another controlled by Comcast.

By default, the customer with the Arris Gateway "opts-in" to allow Comcast to broadcast and control the second public Wi-Fi signal.

"They are especially a temporary customer of Comcast at that point, so they are traceable," said Steve Kipp, Vice President of Communications for Comcast Washington.

Kipp also says the Xfinity Wi-Fi signal is a separated, secure network that different from the customers home wireless network signal.

Kipp also says customers supplying a public Wi-Fi signal will not see a decrease in bandwidth speed.

"We've got enough bandwidth there to be able to make sure speeds remain the same and they are not impacted by this basically completely separate network connected to your Wi-Fi," he said.

Customers who want to opt-out of providing a public wifi signal can call Comcast to have it disabled.