Comcast has announced that it will begin turning the in-home Wi-Fi routers it offers to consumers into quasi-public hotspots. Customers who have the "Xfinity Wireless Gateway" will soon begin transmitting a new Wi-Fi signal called, simply enough, "xfinitywifi." It will be completely separate from your private Wi-Fi network, Comcast told CNET, and shouldn't affect your personal usage. The new network won't be completely public, however, as the only people who can use it will be other Xfinity customers who happen to know their Xfinity login information. That means that logging into the Wi-Fi is also interrupted by a web page — aka a captive portal — which is a hassle on mobile phones. Everybody else gets to use it twice and then has to pay.

Comcast already offers Xfinity Wi-Fi access points that it maintains itself that are part of the CableWiFi alliance, which claims to offer over 150,000 hotspots in the US. Comcast piloted this new neighborhood Wi-Fi program in some areas last year. The new hotspots will be on by default on all compatible routers, so customers who don't want to participate will have to opt-out. It's not quite the dream of the "Open Wireless Movement" that the EFF is backing, but at least it could be a convenient and unexpected connection for some Comcast users.