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
Comcast users struggle to keep their routers from being used as hotspots
Cable sees big future in Wi-Fi as video gives way to OTT, high programming costs
Comcast begins notifying customers: Congrats, your home is a Wi-Fi hotspot
Madden: How Wi-Fi is driving new competition in the mobile market
Wi-Fi Alliance's new Passpoint features ease login process, support preferred providers
The top 5 reasons cable operators are making big bets on Wi-Fi

Suggested Articles

T-Mobile this week wrapped up the lengthy process of acquiring Sprint. With the deal done, the company may pick up where it left off on video.

The Hulu app is starting to roll out across the Comcast Xfinity X1 platform after last month showing up on the Xfinity Flex platform.

Altice USA is introducing premium pay for its field service and retail employees on the frontlines of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.