SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge stayed a class action that claims Comcast saddled its residential customers with the cost of using their wireless routers to set up a secondary public wi-fi network.
Lead plaintiff Toyer Grear claimed that Comcast saw its millions of residential customers as a chance to compete with major cellular carriers such as AT&T and Verizon.
Comcast does not have cellular towers, but its customers' households "could be used as infrastructure for a national wi-fi network," the Dec. 14, 2014 complaint stated.
Grear claimed that Comcast supplied residential customers with new wireless routers equipped to broadcast their home wi-fi signals and additional wi-fi signals for the public, selectively activating the routers to broadcast the secondary public network across the country, with the goal of enabling 8 million hotspots by the end of 2014.
He claimed that Comcast did it without its customers' authorization.
Comcast moved to stay the case because its residential services agreement contains an arbitration provision.
Comcast permits customers to opt out of the provision, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White wrote in the unpublished March 3 ruling, but "it is undisputed that plaintiffs have not opted out."
Grear claimed that none of his claims fall within the scope of the arbitration provision because his claims relate to unauthorized "use."
Comcast contends that the plaintiffs' claims regard the unauthorized use of equipment, rather than of service. It claims that the residential services agreement "clearly distinguishes the term equipment from the term service" and that the plaintiffs' claims therefore fall within the scope of the arbitration provision.
White granted Comcast's motion to stay the action and to compel arbitration. He gave Grear and Comcast 120 days to file a joint status report.
Grear is represented by Gillian Leigh Wade, with Milstein Adelman in Santa Monica. Comcast is represented by Michael James Stortz, with Drinker Biddle in San Francisco.
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