Are You Paying for Optimum’s “Free” Wifi?

Some Background

Spotty Internet Service. A client in Bellmore had spotty Internet service. After testing his computer system, we advised him to contact his carrier. He called back the next day to say that Optimum was ready to replace his cable modem (that brings in the signal) and his router (which distributes it) for free. Should he accept their offer? We said “Go for it!” Optimum, which runs a copper-wire cable system, has remained competitive with FiOS (fiber optic) and others by providing free hardware upgrades.

Optimum free wifi, Who's paying for it?

Who’s Paying for It?

Not Getting Full Speed. A month or so later, a client in Northport said she wasn’t getting the speed boost she expected after signing up for Optimum’s 100 Mbps Internet service. We confirmed her impressions and advised her to contact Optimum. They said her router was the bottleneck. It turns out that older 100 Mbps-rated routers actually don’t handle true 100 Mbps signals!

The Hook. Optimum said she could replace the router herself ($80-100) or they’d replace it for free. The hook? She’d have to agree to provide “guest” service to anyone in her neighborhood with an Optimum ID. What? Wait! Did you have an AHA! experience?

Optimum doesn’t provide free wifi hotspots and coverage throughout their franchise area. Their customers do!

Proof of the Pudding?

We used a free program, WifiInfoView that “scans the local wireless networks and displays extensive information about them.” We were able to match the “free” Optimum Wifi hotspots visible from our offices with the paid Optimum networks that provided them.

We love free wifi. So, do we love using Optimum Wifi almost anywhere in the Optimum coverage area? You bet! So do subscribers of Optimum’s partners — Time Warner Cable, Comcast (xfinity), Bright House Networks, and Cox Communications.

So what’s not to like?

Transparency & Accountability.  Our client in Bellmore is providing Optimum Wifi, but doesn’t know it. Could be he wasn’t listening when the deal was explained. Maybe he didn’t understand it. Perhaps he got it but didn’t care. Possibly it wasn’t explained.

Privacy.  Any wifi router that has a “guest” account turned on is less secure and less private than a router with no guest provision or no guest account turned on. Sure. Sure. Optimum Wifi is not an ordinary guest account and “every caution has been observed.” Hey, Optimum, we believe you. But then there’s WikiLeaks, iPhones that hackers broke into when the Feds couldn’t, and the “Russians” who divulged the Democratic National Committee’s plans. Ding Dong! Is this ringing any bells?

The bottom line.

If you use Optimum WiFi, be aware that what you do online might not be as private or as secure as you like. And if Optimum offers you a free router — well, think twice. It’s their router, but your bandwidth!

This article was written by PC Consultant Louis J. Bruno.  For more about Lou, please visit the Bryant Hills Group.

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