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Comcast wants you to share your Internet access with other customers

A new service that turns your Comcast Xfinity WiFi router into a public hotspot rolled out Wednesday in the Seattle area and other parts of the country. But not everyone is happy about it. (AP file)

Would you be willing to share your Comcast Internet access with complete strangers? If you’re an Xfinity WiFi customer, the company is trying to turn your wireless home router into a new WiFi hotspot.

Comcast on Wednesday began rolling out a new program across Western Washington and Spokane that activates a separate WiFi signal on some Xfinity wireless routers, allowing other Comcast customers to get Internet access through your modem.

While the company is notifying customers by email and letter, the new service is drawing plenty of criticism, says GeekWire’s Todd Bishop, who first reported on the new program.

“For somebody who just suddenly realizes that someone from the public walking by their house is accessing the Internet through their router, it’s creepy. Even with all the caveats that Comcast is giving,” says Bishop.

Another criticism is that the service is opt-out, meaning it’s automatically turned on and customers have to go into their settings and deactivate it if they don’t want their router used as a public hotspot.

Others welcome the new service, which Comcast says will create 219,000 free Xfinity WiFi hotspots for its customers in Western Washington and Spokane, in addition to millions more nationally.

Comcast says the new service utilizes a separate channel on your router and has no bearing on your bandwidth, performance or security. In its FAQ, the company says it’s actually more secure because people are not accessing your personal network.

“We actually believe having an Xfinity WiFi hotspot adds a measure of security, because it makes it easier for your friends and relatives to connect, and it provides better protection to your private in-home Wi-Fi network. You won’t have to share your password with a babysitter or house guest because they are connecting to a completely separate Wi-Fi network. None of their activity is counted against your homeowner account,” says spokesman Steve Kipp in a statement.

Still, Bishop says many people are unhappy with the way Comcast is handling the roll-out of the controversial new service. “It makes people uneasy and rightfully so.”

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