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posted by Dopefish on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.

Papas Fritas writes:

"Robert Channick reports at the Chicago Tribune that Comcast is set to turn hundreds of thousands of Chicago-area homes into wi-fi hot spots, using existing Comcast equipment to build out its publicly accessible wireless network.

The neighborhood hot spots initiative, rolling out during the next several months, will send a separate Wi-Fi signal from Comcast-issued home equipment, enabling anyone within range to get online. Soon, entire residential blocks will begin to show as hot spots on Xfinity's Wi-Fi mobile app. Because the Comcast subscriber's signal will be kept separate from the second, publicly available signal, the subscriber's speed and privacy shouldn't be affected. 'They'll look like two separate networks and they'll act like two separate networks,' says Tom Nagel. 'Any use on the public side doesn't impact the private side.' Once the dual-mode modems are activated remotely by Comcast, visitors will use their own Xfinity credentials to sign on, and will not need the homeowner's permission or password to tap into the public Wi-Fi signal.

Non-subscribers will get two free hours a month; beyond that, they can access Xfinity Wi-Fi on a per-use basis. Rates run from $2.95 per hour to $19.95 per week, according to Comcast. Xfinity subscribers can travel from hot spot to hot spot in this case, from home to home without needing to log on again through their mobile device. 'The Utopian ideal of a massive, free Wi-Fi network has been around since the early days of Wi-Fi, but there was never an economically viable path to deliver it,' says Craig Moffett. 'Comcast has a better shot at it than just about anybody else.'"

 
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Boxzy on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:38AM

    by Boxzy (742) on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:38AM (#11642) Journal

    This isn't a doubling of wifi access, its a magical attempt to create extra wifi frequencies where all those are already used! my block has already filled all 15 channels of wifi, speeds are massively impacted. This program can only do harm.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:45AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:45AM (#11644)

    It's not using additional frequencies. An AP can run multiple SSIDs on one frequency and that's what they're doing here.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Boxzy on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:02AM

      by Boxzy (742) on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:02AM (#11653) Journal

      If all channels are used, then doubling up any one of them will more than halve throughput of both. Its attempting to use a private persons resources including electricity to provide internet to others. Expect an increase in sales of conductive paint and ethernet cables. Failing that, turning the damn thing off when not being used or a metal can over the antenna.

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      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by edIII on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:19AM

        by edIII (791) on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:19AM (#11660)

        That's what I would do. Just forcibly disable the antenna.

        AP's on most home routers are absolute shit in terms of code quality. It's a router trying to be an access point, without committing the development resources to really do either well.

        Residential gateways I find, are about the worst quality consumer devices possible, 2nd to the corn on the cob toilet paper roll.

        I've always advised people to shut them off and invest in a decent dedicated access point. Netgears are generally pretty good in that regard and a $70-$90 AP works great. Added Bonus: It will have all the modes, and you can create point-to-multi-point bridges and obtain solid service all over your home.

        --
        Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Ethanol-fueled on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:25AM

          by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:25AM (#11662) Homepage

          So if you are an ignorant and participating customer who did not forcibly disable the antenna, and some dick-kneader steals credentials and gets into your "other" network to download The Anarchist's Cookbook or illegal dolphin porn, does that mean that the FBI and the ICE will still kick down your door on a no-knock warrant and shoot your wife and kids dead?

          What could possibly go wrong?

          • (Score: 5, Interesting) by edIII on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:42AM

            by edIII (791) on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:42AM (#11667)

            That's actually a very very good thing though.

            I know Germany went full-retard, and then finally, said they don't care if it was you or not, you would be financially and criminally responsible. That effectively shut down open access hot-spots, and certainly, and kind of guest wireless services.

            However, in this case, Comcast does make the distinction (at the IP address and network level) that the guest services you operate is not you. It's explicitly not you.

            Furthermore, since Comcast receives revenue, is responsible for the authentication (via XFinity), and is operating a separate network in your home, and this is not owned by you, it is Comcast that will be raided and shot in the head, not the consumer .

            The access if fully authenticated at every point, on a separate network, and Comcast will only identify the area the signal came from. Not the subscriber property in which they are operating their own equipment.

            I would be more worried about my operation of a TOR exit node quite frankly, not Comcast running a signal out of my place.

            P.S - Is dolphin porn really illegal? I need to know.

            --
            Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
            • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Geotti on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:59AM

              by Geotti (1146) on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:59AM (#11688) Journal

              It's explicitly not you.
              So, you're saying that if *you* want to download The Anarchist's Cookbook (assuming you didn't do so in the 90's), you just connect to the second SSID? Ingenious!

              • (Score: 2) by edIII on Thursday March 06 2014, @04:23AM

                by edIII (791) on Thursday March 06 2014, @04:23AM (#11738)

                Yep. They allow temporary guest access apparently. Afterwards it's authenticated, but hey, you don't need that long to download all the dolphin porn and anarchist materials do you?

                --
                Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:35AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:35AM (#11862)

                Better: Connect to your neighbour's second SSID ;-)

              • (Score: 2) by etherscythe on Thursday March 06 2014, @08:12PM

                by etherscythe (937) on Thursday March 06 2014, @08:12PM (#12171) Journal

                Except that, no doubt, you're authenticating to the second network using your own Comcast subscriber/email account, linked to your real name and address. It will be more explicitly you than if you used your own WiFi SSID, because at least your own WiFi might be given out to friends, etc. However, if some flaw were found in the hotspot authentication protocol...

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            • (Score: 1) by Ryuugami on Thursday March 06 2014, @08:54AM

              by Ryuugami (2925) on Thursday March 06 2014, @08:54AM (#11838)

              Is dolphin porn really illegal? I need to know.

              Only if the dolphin was underage.

              --
              If a shit storm's on the horizon, it's good to know far enough ahead you can at least bring along an umbrella. - D.Weber
              • (Score: 1) by Taibhsear on Thursday March 06 2014, @09:01PM

                by Taibhsear (1464) on Thursday March 06 2014, @09:01PM (#12208)

                What is the age of consent for a dolphin?

      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Foobar Bazbot on Thursday March 06 2014, @07:00AM

        by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Thursday March 06 2014, @07:00AM (#11808) Journal

        If all channels are used, then doubling up any one of them will more than halve throughput of both.

        In general, yes. Because if I have two APs, one 10m east of the other, then a client that's way off to the east, so that it's just in range of the east one, isn't in range of the west one at all -- so the west one doesn't hear it, talks over top of it, and causes packet loss. The normal 802.11 solution to the hidden node problem, rts/cts, doesn't work here; it depends on the AP knowing the channel state, and the west AP doesn't know about the far-east client it can't hear.

        But that's not how it works when you use the same AP to provide two SSIDs. The AP can hear all connected clients, no matter which SSID they're connected to, so RTS/CTS works fine. Aggregate throughput of the two SSIDs is essentially the same as for a single SSID. (Yes, beacon frames eat up a tiny bit, but you could just halve the beacon rate to get that back...)

        (There are also ways of coordinating independent APs that share a wired connection to minimize this and other problems. Enterprise-class wifi solutions (from e.g. Juniper Networks) can do that, cable-company-provided modem/router/ap boxes absolutely don't. But it doesn't matter here, because it's a single AP and can therefore always hear all connected clients.)

        Its attempting to use a private persons resources including electricity to provide internet to others.

        It is, although the electrical use is so small as to be ridiculous to squabble over. The only real resource that it's a real problem for is the 2.4GHz band, which is already clogged to death. Even though this particular thing carries next to no intrinsic penalty (as explained above), any passerby using it when the cable subscriber wants maximum throughput or minimal latency is degrading their WLAN connection's utility. That's not particularly bad, since the same diminution of utility (if not worse) would arise from any other way of giving that passerby a 2.4GHz WLAN connection.

        Expect an increase in sales of conductive paint and ethernet cables. Failing that, turning the damn thing off when not being used or a metal can over the antenna.

        I hope not. I hope people will let Comcast roll out publicly-accessible (and way overpriced, unless my guesses as to the traffic cap on that $20/week plan are way off) 2.4 GHz internet access, but buy their own 5 GHz AP and move their WLAN to that, entirely avoiding the tragedy of the commons that is the 2.4GHz band. Not only is there way more bandwidth available, but it intrinsically limits the area within which networks can interfere in built-up areas (the very ones where congestion is worst); 5GHz has the nice characteristic of being partially blocked by typical walls, such that it works well enough in the next room over, but falls off by the time you're two apartments over. We'll all be better off if most people move to 5GHz for most stuff, reserving the limited bandwidth in the 2.4GHz band for the few who actually need it (whether for compatibility with old hardware, because they actually do have more absorbent/numerous walls to get through, or whatever).

        • (Score: 1) by gottabeme on Thursday March 06 2014, @07:14PM

          by gottabeme (1531) on Thursday March 06 2014, @07:14PM (#12134)

          Hey man, I just gotta say, thanks for putting that in your sig. This is amazing. Why bother to rewrite Slash to do AJAX when this script works fine and FAST! So nice to not have to go back and forth between pages to read replies.

          • (Score: 2) by Foobar Bazbot on Thursday March 06 2014, @07:37PM

            by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Thursday March 06 2014, @07:37PM (#12151) Journal

            Why bother to rewrite Slash to do AJAX when this script works fine and FAST!

            Why bother? well, for one thing, I haven't had much luck with userscripts on Android. Supposedly Opera Labs handles them, but this one loads, but doesn't work right; there's a dedicated browser (oilcan?) that runs userscripts, but none of the other Android browsers (at least the ones I already use) handle it at all, and I'm not keen to add another one, especially on my wristwatch.

            But for desktops, yeah, it's great. Can't take much credit, as I just tweaked a couple lines to make it work with modern browsers (instead of 2008 browsers) and to match SN instead of /., but I'm glad it's helping people.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:32AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:32AM (#11861)

        If all channels are used, then doubling up any one of them will more than halve throughput of both.

        Not only that, but in addition, even if they somehow managed to double the wireless capacity, the cable the internet connection runs on will not magically get more capacity.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:44AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:44AM (#11668)

    I don't think that more usage = harm. If it's too expensive then no one would use it and it should not use up too much bandwidth. If people use it then it is providing utility to those that do use it. If the problem is that there isn't enough wireless bandwidth to serve everyone's needs then the laws of supply and demand would lead to the optimal economic solution. (and I do think this program is way overpriced due to a lack of competition in the broadband market).

    If this service does result in a net consumption of more bandwidth that's actually a good thing because that's enabling the usage of more bandwidth that was previously unused and that extra usage provides more utility (after all, people wouldn't use it if it doesn't provide utility). Preventing this program only serves to (artificially) limit the usage of available bandwidth.

    Of course there are other issues to work out. I want my router giving me priority and only providing others with bandwidth to the extent that it doesn't take away from my bandwidth (ie: when I'm not using it maybe). I want it to be secure so that I can't get blamed for the actions of others and I don't want to enable others to access my home network (they can have a separate network, kinda like how wireless routers have a guest network). I don't want them being able to surf the Internet with my IP address (yes, IP addresses are dynamic but, for the most part, mine may go weeks or months without changing). Perhaps those using the wifi of others can be assigned a separate set of IP addresses that are different from those that aren't.

    Another issue maybe that when someone else uses your neighbors wireless and you're too far from your wireless that extra usage interferes with your ability to use your own wireless. So there is harm it could do but that's not to say it can't do any good either.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:54AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:54AM (#11682)

      (same poster, sorry)

      Also, that last criticism can be mitigated if the wireless router is programmed to not provide external guests with bandwidth when other routers are using that bandwidth (the other routers presumably being those using their own routers).

      The ISP may also enable me to freely use some of the routers surrounding my house and to have priority over external guests (but not over the owners of those routers) who don't live in the neighborhood (they can provide me with some way of authenticating myself) so that when I am far away from my computer but within my house and a neighbor's router may provide me with better service my device would automatically switch to the neighbor's router.