Should Businesses Foot the Bill for Free Public Wifi?

Comcast announced it has surpassed one million Wi-Fi hotspots across the nation, according to a press release that the company recently issued.

How did they do that?

Outdoor Hotspots: Comcast has placed Xfinity WiFi hotspots in public locations across the country, ranging from shopping centers and commuter stations to parks, sporting venues, beaches and boardwalks. Cities include San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta as well as areas of New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.

Business Hotspots: Most Comcast Business Internet customers are eligible to receive an Xfinity WiFi hotspot for no additional charge when they order service. This is a value-added feature that directly improves their patrons’ experience. Examples include restaurants, cafes and bakeries, retail establishments and office waiting rooms.

Neighborhood Hotspots: Recently, Comcast began providing residential customers with Xfinity Wireless Gateways the ability to have a second “xfinitywifi” signal (or SSID) in their home that is separate and distinct from their private and secure home Wi-Fi signal. This additional access point provides Xfinity Internet subscribers with a Wi-Fi signal without the need to share a homeowner’s private network password. This service is included at no additional charge.

As a business, we received a  notice from Comcast touting that their new Wifi Service is available and includes at no additional charge a free public wifi within. Also note that this free public wifi can’t be turned off if you accept the wifi router from them. This is a big deal because it means that as a business YOU are paying for Comcast to provide free wifi to the general public. How are you paying? You are paying by agreeing to let the public use your available bandwidth that you bought for your business to use. This is important because streaming applications like Spotify, for example, are designed to use a lot of bandwidth. We’ve seen over and over again streaming applications grind business to a near halt. Further I really hate the idea of inviting the world onto your network. Comcasts routers were vulnerable to the recent Heartbleed episode and no security is perfect. The fewer people you have hitting your wifi the better.

Our recommendation therefore is that our clients do not accept the free wifi router from Comcast. Wifi routers are inexpensive enough to not warrant the risk.


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