A Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) customer is suing the MSO for turning his residential home gateway into a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Paul Jensen, the plaintiff in the case, claims Cablevision's strategy violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act because the cable firm never asked for Jensen's permission before modifying the software on his rented router and opening up the public SSID.
Jensen claims that Cablevision is using its residential customers' hotspots to create the company's Optimum Wi-Fi Hotspot network and compete with cellular providers such as AT&T and Verizon that provide customers with wireless service via a massive network of cell sites and towers. Jensen said Cablevision's strategy allows it to avoid paying for costly cellular infrastructure equipment that it would otherwise need to compete.
Jensen further claims that Cablevision's actions have resulted in diminished broadband Internet speed, put him at greater security risk and increased his electricity costs.
Cablevision issued this statement in response to the lawsuit: "Our customers love having access to Optimum WiFi both in and out of the home, and this frivolous lawsuit appears to be the result of plaintiffs' attorneys looking for something to do. For more than 40 years, privacy and security have been of paramount importance to Cablevision, and all Optimum WiFi access points provide both convenient and secure wireless broadband connections for our customers."
This isn't the first time a cable MSO has been sued for opening up residential Wi-Fi routers to the public. Late last year two Northern California residents filed a class action suit in a San Francisco federal court against Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), claiming the cable company's shared Wi-Fi routers use too much electrical power, violate their privacy and slow their network.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of Pittsburg, Calif., resident Toyer Grear and his daughter Joycelyn Harris. They claim Comcast is "exploiting them for profit" by using their leased gateway to support the MSO's rollout of its Wi-Fi network.
Similar to the Cablevision lawsuit, the Comcast lawsuit also claims that the secondary signal these gateways broadcast increase their electrical power usage.
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Update: This story was updated on Aug. 21 to include a statement from Cablevision.