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eXploring Xfinity

A First Look at Provider-Enabled Community Networks

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCCN,volume 9631)

Abstract

Several broadband providers have been offering community WiFi as an additional service for existing customers and paid subscribers. These community networks provide Internet connectivity on the go for mobile devices and a path to offload cellular traffic. Rather than deploying new infrastructure or relying on the resources of an organized community, these provider-enabled community WiFi services leverage the existing hardware and connections of their customers. The past few years have seen a significant growth in their popularity and coverage and some municipalities and institutions have started to consider them as the basis for public Internet access.

In this paper, we present the first characterization of one such service – the Xfinity Community WiFi network. Taking the perspectives of the home-router owner and the public hotspot user, we characterize the performance and availability of this service in urban and suburban settings, at different times, between September, 2014 and 2015. Our results highlight the challenges of providing these services in urban environments considering the tensions between coverage and interference, large obstructions and high population densities. Through a series of controlled experiments, we measure the impact to hosting customers, finding that in certain cases, the use of the public hotspot can degrade host network throughput by up-to 67 % under high traffic on the public hotspot.

Keywords

  • Access Point
  • Home Network
  • WiFi Network
  • Download Speed
  • Suburban Setting

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Before connecting, a Comcast user must be authenticated through an HTML form with their subscription credentials.

  2. 2.

    While NDT results on network properties have been questioned, we believe that the gathered measurements should be consistent for comparisons between settings, and 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands [7].

  3. 3.

    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/179344-how-to-boost-your-wifi-speed-by-choosing-the-right-channel.

  4. 4.

    We refer to the public hotspot WiFi network as the xfinity-network and customer’s personal network as the home-network.

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Acknowledgments

We thank our shepherd Matthew Luckie and the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback. Also, we thank Rishabh Gemawat and Sabita Acharya for helping with data collection. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation through Award CNS 1218287.

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Correspondence to Fabián E. Bustamante .

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Jha, D.K., Rula, J.P., Bustamante, F.E. (2016). eXploring Xfinity. In: Karagiannis, T., Dimitropoulos, X. (eds) Passive and Active Measurement. PAM 2016. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 9631. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-30505-9_11

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-30505-9_11

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