Q: Well, the turkey is gone. Time to get up and get some shopping done, right?
A: So, you thought you owned your home Wi-Fi signal. Think again.
Phone companies charge for whatever they can. It used to be you bought phone call minutes. Then people stopped calling. So, then you paid for texts. Until non-SMS (Internet-based texting) became popular. Now you pay for data. Affordable, unlimited plans are neither, but they make up most of your bill. Your relief valve for Internet access is Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi has become ubiquitous and expected. Well, except on airlines and in hotel rooms.
Most of us have learned that free, public Wi-Fi comes with a price and lurking dangers. So, we ensure a secure (https/ssl) connection or don’t do our banking in public.
At home, your Internet provider’s wireless router defaults to encrypted, password required access. You paste the crazy SSID (Wi-Fi system id) and long, crazy password on your fridge. At least it’s safe, right?
A recent trend for many broadband providers is to configure your home Wi-Fi router to serve up free Wi-Fi to any of their customers. Their access is validated by their broadband account. Once you supply your provider’s credentials, most phones will automatically connect to any of their routers automatically as they encounter them.
Even though you are paying for the service, renting the router, and paying for the electricity, they are giving away your signal. Comcast’s (Xfinity) Wi-Fi) Hotspot promises to make all of their residential wireless routers public Wi-Fi hosts (bit.ly/2w35OOt). Free Wi-Fi on your dime!
Their hope is that with more freely available Wi-Fi, they will stick with their phone plans too. Customer stickiness means more revenue. The thought is that with all their customers sharing access with each other, it will all come out in the wash. This Propellerhead predicts as phone data plans become less necessary (with all that free Wi-Fi around), your broadband bill will continue to grow.
The providers insist that the free Wi-Fi signal is separated from your home network. Thus, you have some privacy protections despite sharing the same router. Comcast says you can disable this feature easily, it is secure, and it won’t affect your Wi-Fi performance (bit.ly/2vqBn7V). BTW, anyone want to buy a bridge?
Other providers are combining forces to create large free Wi-Fi networks. Cable Wi-Fi, is a collaboration consisting of Cox, Optimum, Spectrum, Time Warner, and Xfinity to make every home a Wi-Fi hotspot.
So, has your home already become a public Wi-Fi hotspot? Probably or at the least soon. But, widespread availability of Wi-Fi on the back of your underutilized modem may not a bad deal. In case you missed it, your Internet service provider most likely got your permission that last time you “agreed” to the revised end user license agreement (EULA).
I bought my own wireless cable router a few years ago, mostly to save on the rental. But, I didn’t want to constantly have to tell my guests to check my refrigerator for sign-on credentials. I also didn’t want my nephew’s HD gaming activities to affect my Internet access. So, I enabled the guest feature on my Wi-Fi modem. My guests can find, sign on, and use the guest signal with no directions from me. I have a separate secured and password protected signal for my home devices. In addition, I have tweaked my services parameters so my guests have slightly less throughput. Basically, I voluntarily did at my house what these providers did at yours.
On a related note, despite advances in Wi-Fi routers, many of us suffer from dead spots (no Wi-Fi) in areas of our home. With Wi-Fi connected thermostats, light bulbs, cameras, and refrigerators (aka IoTS), a strong, reliable home Wi-Fi network is becoming critical. In the past, this was addressed with access points and range extenders with varied success, Enter Mesh networks (bit.ly/2w3h25L).
These puck-sized devices extend your Wi-Fi signal by treating each node as a range extender and providing fault tolerance and automatic signal rerouting. So, if your fridge loses its Internet connection, it may re-acquire the signal from the node in the next room. No more guessing if you have any eggs. With Google Wi-Fi’s (madeby.google.com/Wi-Fi) entry in to the market, this technology has become red-hot. It’s most likely my next upgrade.
So, your smarty-pants brother in-law is probably right. Let him have the bone. After all, he did marry your sister.