Sharing is good ... until it starts eating your bandwidth

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2016 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: security, isp, wifi

ISPs have stumbled onto a new money making venture, renting out your wireless internet connection to third parties so that those companies can provide public WiFi to their customers.  Sources told The Inquirer that some ISPs already do this without informing their customers and that it will likely be a common industry practice by 2017.  Theoretically you are allowed to opt out but since your ISP may not have told their users they are doing this; how would the average customer know to request this be turned off?

This raises several concerns, especially here in North America thanks to our pathetic internet services.  Most users have a data cap and the ISPs have little reason to spend resources to properly monitor who is using the bandwidth, their customers or random passersby.  As well the speeds of most customers are low enough that they may see degradation of their service if numerous passersby connect to their WiFi.  Putting the monetary concerns to the side there are also serious security concerns.  Once a user has access to your WiFi router they are most of the way into your network and services such as UPnP and unprotected ports leave you vulnerable to attack.

Change the password your provider put on the router and consider reaching out to them to find out if you have been unwillingly sharing your bandwidth already, or if you might be doing so in the near future.

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"Companies are going to be selling a lot more public Wi-Fi plans over the next few years and it's going to be home Wi-Fi users who'll be the backbone of the network, according to analysts from Juniper Research."

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January 29, 2016 | 02:47 PM - Posted by Chuck (not verified)

Or just use your own hardware...
Modems/routers the ISPs supply you with are usually terrible anyways.

January 29, 2016 | 02:52 PM - Posted by wujj123456

Not only terrible, but the rental fees are terribly expensive. Unfortunately, again they are betting on people who are clueless about network and equipment. I am sure folks are smart enough to avoid the rentals aren't their target at first place...

January 29, 2016 | 02:48 PM - Posted by snowbound999

I believe with Comcast they place the free wifi on a separate subnet that is firewall from the network that the account holder uses. As well the data usage on the free wifi side is not affecting the account holder but of course incumbents never over sell their network ... cough cough cough.

January 29, 2016 | 08:06 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Comcast does this where I live. I ended up getting their cable modem, wifi, and telephone all-in-one unit. My one wifi router was quite old anyway. The Comcast public network that I believe it makes available is separate. If anyone were to use it, they are not logging into your wifi network. With cable systems, it is all shared bandwidth anyway. They advertise an upto bandwidth, but you will not get that during prime usage times at all. I have seen a lot of people who broadcast podcast from their home run into this issue. You can probably get more bandwidth allocated to your link if you pay for business class. In the one case, someone wanted to upgrade to business class, and the cable company refused. This probably means that the neighborhood is oversubscribed significantly, and they cannot guarantee the business class speed. This probably isn't going to be fixed anytime soon in the US. There is no competition where I live. It is either Comcast with ~60 MBits/s or AT&T with 1.5 Mbit/s. I hope google fiber will come here eventually and force some competition. I would dump Comcast immediately if there was another viable option.

January 29, 2016 | 03:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Comcast is using the customer's electricity, all while overcharging for the box's rent! Comcast/others should only be allowed to charge rental on the cable box/modem up to the actual amount of the total cost of the hardware + a reasonable maintenance surcharge, and not gouge the customer for rental fees that actually pay for the entire cost of the box in one year. That using the customer's electricity can not be legal, and if enough notify the FCC, and other regulators, that practice will probably be stopped. It's better just to get your own hardware, and the FCC has a rule purposed to allow for users to get their own hardware. I only rent an Ethernet modem from Comcast because wired is faster and safer from outside snooping. The ISPs need to be strictly regulated before they pull more of this stealing from their customers!

ISPs and the content providers need to be forced apart with the ISPs being separate companies from the content providers, who sale the content! With ISPs as legally separate business entities from content providers like comcast and other combination Content/ISPs, the whole net would be a much fairer place. The best way to deal with net neutrality is to have more than one(many) ISPs per sales market with the content providers providing their own separate services to the user, either by renting from ISPs or simply providing private over the network access to the user for the content provided. The internet pipes need to be democratized and let the content providers offer log-in services for their content like netflix, etc, with the internet pipes owners/ISPs having to compete for the customer's business.

January 29, 2016 | 08:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Do you really think that the US government would ever actually break up these companies? They aren't really even enforcing net neutrality with allowing companies to exempt traffic from data caps. Most places in the US have no choices for broadband. That isn't even the same issue as net neutrality. The Internet has become infrastructure that is necessary for most companies to do business. Perhaps Americans would be fine with the government selling the road in front of their house to Walmart and paying a toll, unless you have a Walmart receipt, of course.

January 31, 2016 | 09:21 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Do you really think that the US government would ever actually break up these companies?"
I guess you're too young to remember Bell.

January 30, 2016 | 01:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Um, you DO know you can provide your own modem, and that renting one from Comcast is voluntary? If you don't like their rental fee, don't pay it.

January 30, 2016 | 07:43 PM - Posted by Rick0502 (not verified)

That is true, but if you also use them for a landline you're stuck using their modem. But, if you have ten put the modem in bridge mode it disables their wifi network.

January 31, 2016 | 11:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Corptocracy alert.

February 2, 2016 | 11:47 AM - Posted by razor512

For anyone who has one of those public hot spots, can you test if it gets a separate WAN IP? If it shares the WAN IP, then that means it is the perfect hotspot for seeing if it is possible to get an IP ban from twitter, facebook, google?, Amazon, etc.

other than that, a public facing hotspot, even if on a separate VLAN, it will reduce your performance overall, and you will often get higher energy consumption. The way that it is controlled, means that CTF has to be disabled. This lowers the max possible WAN throughput while also increasing power consumption. ll traffic will also gain a slight amount of additional latency while in transit to and from the WAN.

WiFi radios also encounter a non linear reduction in performance with each additional client. e.g., if under perfect conditions the radio can do 700mbit/s, if you add a second client, each will not get an exact 350Mbit/s, instead, each will get less than 350Mbit/s as you get overhead with each additional client.

Then with comcast and many other cable providers, overselling their service, they are already unable to reliably provide people with the speed they are paying for, in those situations, any throughput used by a public user, will directly lower your performance.

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