Over the years, we’ve seen Internet Service Providers (ISPs) roll out a special service for their customers. If you use an ISP-provided router, it will act as a hotspot that other customers can use for free. People who aren’t customers can buy internet time and use your router like a regular hotspot.
Usually, in return, you have to allow other users of the ISP to use your router as a hotspot, too. But can people slow down your internet speed while using it; or worse, use it for malicious purposes?
Can People Snoop On Your Wi-Fi?
With strangers connecting to your router, can you be sure that they won’t pry on your traffic? While it’s true that people are connecting to your router via the hotspot, that doesn’t mean they’re using your personal network.
Advanced routers have the ability to broadcast more than one network. When your router is in hotspot mode, it’s broadcasting two networks at the same time; your personal network, and a hotspot network. When you scan for Wi-Fi signals, you should see two SSIDs; your personal one, and a generic hotspot name.
Despite being two separate entries, these are both coming from your router. It’s just that it has separated your private network away from the hotspot traffic. As such, when people use the hotspot on your router, they’re not using the same network as your private one. They won’t be able to access the computers and devices on your personal network, so there’s no need to worry.
Can People Use Up Your Bandwidth?
Even if the other users are using a different network than you, it’s true that all the connections go through the same road from your home to the ISP. Not only does this mean that other users share your bandwidth, but perhaps those users use up any data caps you have.
First of all, your data cap is fine! The ISP can separate the traffic you generate from the traffic generated by others. As such, even if someone uses the hotspot to download files, it won’t count toward your data cap.
Your bandwidth, however, is a different story. The connection between your router and your ISP doesn’t magically double its bandwidth just because your router has two networks!
ISPs acknowledge this, and they claim that your private traffic will have priority over that of the hotspot traffic. Essentially, if someone is downloading a file using the hotspot and you begin watching a Netflix movie, the ISP will give priority to your movie and reduce the hotspot user’s download speed.
As such, you should technically not feel any difference while you use your private network. If you’re uncertain, however, you should turn the feature off so you can have the bandwidth to yourself.
What About Illegal Downloading?
People connecting to the hotspot require an account to use it. This is either the account tied to the ISP for free usage or an account created so the user can load internet time onto it. As such, all traffic from that account is tied to that person’s personal data.
As such, if someone uses your hotspot for illegal reasons, their traffic won’t be tied to you. It will instead lead the investigation to the account the user made to use the hotspot in the first place.
Hotspot or Not-Spot?
Leaving this feature on is a case of personal preference. People connecting to your router as a hotspot shouldn’t be able to see your traffic, neither will they drain your data caps or use up your bandwidth. From a technical standpoint, there’s little danger in letting others use your router as a hotspot.
As such, if you like the ISP’s hotspot plan and want to be a part of it, leave it on. However, if you don’t use the hotspots and suspect that the bandwidth prioritization perhaps isn’t as good as it could be, you can turn the hotspot feature off and revert it back to a regular router.
What about you — would you keep this feature on or turn it off? Let us know below.