Comcast sued for turning residential routers into hotspots

Two Northern California residents have launched 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.

The suit claims that the secondary signal these gateways broadcast increase their electrical power usage by as much as 40 percent, and that Comcast is pushing "tens of millions of dollars per month of the electricity bills needed to run their nationwide public Wi-Fi network onto customers."

The suit also claims the secondary signal puts Comcast's customers under greater security risk, allowing "strangers to connect to the Internet through the same wireless router used by Comcast customers."

Comcast has yet to publicly respond to the lawsuit.

Comcast is seeking to build a carrier-grade Wi-Fi network that can compete with cellular networks, and it has the ambitious goal of deploying 8 million Wi-Fi hotspots across the U.S. by the end of 2014.

Many of those hotspots utilize newer gateways leased by customers, which push out a secondary signal that's publicly available.

Comcast has begun notifying its customers in cases when their router is being used as a hotspot. And the company has provisions to turn the secondary signal off if a customer wants to opt out.

However, as a message-board poster noted on DSL Reports last week, the sharing is a default setting in Comcast's wireless gateways. So, every time the MSO pushes out a firmware update and resets the device's settings, it gets pushed back into hotspot sharing mode.

And for their part, the plaintiffs in the suit accuse Comcast of being vague about the contractual terms of Wi-Fi sharing.

For more:
- read this San Francisco Chronicle story
- read this Houston Chronicle story

Related links
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