What You Need to Know About Your Home Router Being Turned Into a Public Hotspot

PHOTO: Visitors are seen in a cafe area behind a sign indicating a free WiFi zone at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Feb. 27, 2013. PlaySimon Dawson/Bloomberg/Getty Images
WATCH Comcast's Wi-Fi Plan 'Feels Weird," Customer Says

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With the flick of a switch, more than 50,000 private residences in the Houston area began broadcasting as Wi-Fi hotspots this week, with even more expected to be added before the end of the month.

The program is part of a plan by Comcast that aims to turn millions of subscribers' home routers into hotspots. The program has more than 1 million hotspots to date, according to Comcast's website.

While the idea of sharing -- and increased connectivity -- may sound nice, the idea has also sparked some concerns among subscribers.

"It feels weird for Comcast to take my modem that I am already paying for and delivering it to other people," Michelle Eulene, a Comcast subscriber, told ABC's Houston-owned station KTRK-TV.

Here's the lowdown on what you need to know about Comcast's XFINITY Wi-Fi plan, including who can use it, what it will do to subscribers' Internet speeds and how to opt-out of the service.

How to Know If Your Home Has Been Turned Into a Hotspot

The easy answer: If your router is purchased from a retail store, your home likely isn't a hotspot.

Subscribers who rent one of Comcast’s new cable modem/wireless router devices in an area where the service has been turned on will transmit a signal for a public networks called either “xfinitywifi” or "CableWiFi.”

Each home's public hotspot is equipped to handle a maximum of five users.

Users can simply choose a public hotspot and log on using their account credentials.

Is Sharing Really Caring?

Comcast is touting the program as a way for people to help "build a bigger network that can benefit your friends, neighbors and all XFINITY Internet customers. And it’s good for you, too. Because when you need a hotspot, it'll be there."

Internet Speed

While time will be the true test, Comcast predicts the program will have a minimal impact on a user's home Wi-Fi experience. However, despite being on different networks, a subscriber's home Wi-Fi and the public hotspot will use shared spectrum, which has the potential to slow down some devices that share Wi-Fi.

Who Is Accountable for Potential Illicit Activity?

Since users have to log on to the hotspot using their Comcast accounts, any activities and usage are solely tied to their account and not the homeowner's, according to Comcast.

So You Don't Want to Share

If you've found that your home has been turned into a public Wi-Fi zone and don't want to share, you can opt out by calling 1-800-XFINITY or by logging onto your account online, choosing "Users & Preferences" and then selecting "Manage XFINITY WiFi."

Comcast told KTRK the opt-out rate has been minuscule, with just 1 percent of eligible users asking for their home routers to be excluded.