Internet service just got creepy: How to set up a wireless router with Comcast internet service

I just moved back to Florida after a one year research project in Berlin and have subscribed to Comcast broadband service. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth, though not because the tech showed-up 2 hours after the installation appointment window. Nor was it because he held loud personal conversations on his cell phone while he was setting up the service. No, the icky feeling is more corporate and selfish, and impedes much more into my private space than “Joe the cable guy” ever could.

Comcast made me install software on my computer in order to use their broadband.

Upon his arrival, “Joe” announced he would need access to my computer to setup broadband service. Understanding that most of the people Joe deals with might not be IT whizzes, and could manage to not be able to connect their machines without his help, I decided to let him use it rather than attempt to prove I was not a member of the usual group. After half an hour of complaining about previous customers to his friend on his cellphone, waiting for an other Comcast person to flip a switch allowing him to do his job, and multiple trips to his truck, he showed me that the internet was indeed accessible on my computer.

At this point the laptop was directly connected to the cable modem via an ethernet cable. He announced I was to follow the steps on the screen and he was out the door. The web page he had left up required me to agree to some terms, create a username and then… install software? Really? I tried to access the net without the final step but nothing doing. Unless I installed this software I was stuck. So I did it, still not believing that a company had really initiated this final invasion onto every customer’s computer. After it was done I had new bookmarks everywhere, for Comcast email, security, and some branding nonsense called “XFINITY” (I thought “X” was out with the ’90’s and “X”games?)

So I thought, “OK, Comcast, you got me, hit me with your best marketing slime. Whatever, I can delete the bookmarklets you installed in my browser, just let me access the service I paid for, wirelessly, on whichever device I want.”

But this is where the relationship got really creepy. Apparently when I installed the Comcast (spyware?) on my machine, it made note of my MAC address, a unique identifier of networked machines, so that it would only allow my machine (or another machine with that MAC address) to connect to the internet. This means when I attached a wireless router to the cable modem I could connect to the wifi, but there was no internet.

So it turns-out that Comcast is not only forcing their adware on customers, it’s also making it difficult (though not impossible) for them use more than one device. Presumably Comcast is doing this in order to circumvent sharing of services among neighbors, but the end result is that you can’t share the service between more than one device, or between roommates or spouses for that matter.

An example (albeit a geeky one): between my wife and I we have 2 laptops, 2 smartphones, and a desktop computer that all might be talking to each other or accessing the net. Comcast’s so-called internet service didn’t allow for any such geekery because it only allows one device, with the correct MAC address, to connect.

So, here’s what I did, on my Mac, with some help from my sister’s boyfriend, Tom, and a lot from Google, to get my linksys wireless router to work with Comcast internet.

  1. Confirm you can access the internet with your machine connected directly to the Comcast cable modem.
  2. Open Terminal and type (without the quotes): “ifconfig en0 | grep ether”
  3. Now disconnect your computer from the modem and connect the modem ethernet cable to your wireless router. Make sure both are plugged-in.
  4. Connect to your wireless router via the airport on your machine.
  5. Go to the following link: http://192.168.1.1
  6. Under Setup, choose DHCP as the Internet Connection Type. Save Settings.
  7. Under Setup : Mac Address Clone, enter the alpha numeric characters returned from Terminal. Save Settings.
  8. Configure your wireless router like you normally would and you are up and running.
  9. Snicker at Comcast

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One Response to “Internet service just got creepy: How to set up a wireless router with Comcast internet service”

  1. L.Pence Says:

    This is so timely, Owen – I’m going through the same thing right now with Comcast, while also shopping for a new modem/router combo so I don’t have to lease from them. Thanks for the tutorial!

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