Frontier lashes out at Comcast's consumer public Wi-Fi hot spot initiative

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Frontier has taken another competitive shot against its main cable competitor Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA). This time it is criticizing the cable MSO's ongoing initiative to turn its customers' broadband modems into public Wi-Fi hot spots, calling the initiative "disrespectful."

The cable MSO recently started turning 50,000 of its paying customer homes into public hotspots in the Houston area, and it is expected to add millions more by the end of 2014.  

There are at least two perspectives to this story: Some customers like the convenience of being able to access hot spots in their neighborhoods, while others are concerned about security, privacy and bandwidth issues.

"The lack of consumer choice is disrespectful," wrote Kelly Morgan, vice president and general manager for Frontier, in a blog post. "Rather than allowing customers to opt into opening their homes to becoming hotspots, they are unilaterally making homes into hotspots and forcing customers to figure out how to opt out of this sharing if they don't want to be a commercial hub for Comcast."

From a bandwidth perspective, Comcast maintains that its "public hotspot won't slow down your residential connection," according to ExremeTech.

Comcast said that it is seeing continual demand for its Wi-Fi products from its customers. 

"Our customers enjoy the fastest and largest WiFi network in the country," said Charlie Douglas, a Comcast spokesperson, in an e-mail to FierceTelecom. "Xfinity Internet customers clearly love it too. This year, we've seen over 400 million WiFi sessions on Xfinity WiFi carrying about 2 Petabytes of data each month. Compared to a year ago, that's more than a 750% increase. By the end of this year, we'll have millions more WiFi hotspots for our customers to enjoy in their homes, in small business locations and in high-traffic outdoor locations."

Besides potentially compromising a customer's bandwidth allocation, privacy and cost are issues.

While it will take time to accurately assess how much an effect Comcast's Wi-Fi push will be, the privacy and bandwidth issues around the initiative could create the latest battle ground between telcos like Frontier and cable as they look to lure and maintain their respective broadband customer bases.

Marketing battles between Frontier and Comcast are nothing new. When Frontier moved to increase the cost of FiOS TV by 50 percent, but also charge a $500 installation fee for new FiOS TV installations in 2011, Comcast launched a campaign in Indiana telling customers to ditch the telco's higher-priced fiber to the home (FTTH) service for Xfinity.

For more:
- see this blog post

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Updated article on June 22 with a quote from Comcast spokesperson about the Wi-Fi service.