Predictably, when Comcast announced at The Cable Show last month that it was enabling a second Wi-Fi SSID on its home gateways there was some consumer backlash.
Some cable subscribers just don’t like the idea of a device within their homes providing a second Wi-Fi hotspot. Comcast’s goal is to create millions of Wi-Fi hotspots  through out the nation via the second SSIDs on the home gateways.
While there are subscribers who are against having a device that they pay to lease and to power providing a public Wi-Fi hotspot, Comcast’s customers can opt out of having the second, public SSID enabled. Comcast’s Tom Nagel, senior vice president of business development, said the cable operator was sensitive to consumers’ concerns over the second SSID on their home gateways, and that Comcast was going to great lengths to inform them that their bandwidth and security won’t be compromised.
“I think there’s some sensitivity around that,” said Comcast vice president of engineering Tom Bach, during a roundtable discussion at the SCTE Rocky Mountain Chapter Symposium last month. “We’ll see how that goes. I think its cool for a subscriber to be all over the place and get access to the network. I think that’s great. Once we start putting gateways in homes I think we have some responsibilities. We have an operational impact, such as where is the demarcation point?
“There’s some operational stuff that I would say is more crunchy, or hard to figure out, than the whole SSID thing. I think the SSID thing will play itself out, personally.”
Liberty Global’s UPC Netherlands has opened up a second SSID on customers’ home EMTAs, according to Bill Warga, vice president of technology at Liberty Global.
“So for us the hidden SSID is fairly important if we want to provide hotspots outside in the metro area because a large portion of our plant is underground,” Warga said during the roundtable at the symposium. “Amsterdam doesn’t let us put antennas on their light poles. We’ve been out with that (second SSID) for about six months and we’re seeing fairly high usage. If you’re a UPC customer and you’re looking for hotspots, they’ll come up.
“We are managing the bandwidth and if the customers want full bandwidth they get it. You could be in a car watching a video and if all of sudden it just collapses and goes to nothing it’s because the customer has first right of refusal, so to speak on the bandwidth.”
Warga said that enabling the public SSID “wasn’t an opt in type of deal,” but he didn’t know offhand if UPC subscribers could elect to opt out.
"It is a good product for us right now,” he said. “We’re putting out tons of EMTAs so it kind of makes sense for us to have that type of capability. We have not had any kind of consumer backlash, by the way.”
While Comcast announced last month that it would open up a separate, public Wi-Fi network on customers’ home gateways, Liberty Global’s UPC Netherlands also has second SSIDs enabled. Since most of UPC’s cable plant is underground, it needed to find another way to turn on more Wi-Fi hotspots.