How Offering Free WiFi Can Benefit Your Business

How Offering Free WiFi Can Benefit Your Business

Social WiFi Hotspots is a recent development in information technology that has none the less already made a big splash in a wide number of industries, from the old standbys of actually selling modems to a more diverse range of commercial ventures such as hotel accommodations and internet security. Of particular note is the ability of this technology to make wifi more public while limiting liability to the network’s owner as well as offering a potential new source of income for a number of different businesses. The options available to network administrators are surprisingly diverse with social wifi, and any reasonable business looking to get online can expect to use this technology sooner rather than later.

Social WiFi, also known as a captive portal, is a means by which people using digital devices with wireless modems can activate their devices’ internet connections. From there, the network of an area automatically sends these users to a specific landing page rather than the user’s typical landing page. From there, the network’s administrators can set up a wide range of different conditions for accessing their network. While this sounds aggravating, the fact is that not only does bandwidth cost (which can swiftly add up with large numbers of people using the network), but excessive use of that bandwidth can slow the network down for everybody using it. Additionally, crimes committed online traced back to a specific network can leave the network administrator facing a certain level of legal liability for the crimes launched from their network. With this in mind, it only makes sense to create a filter to allow only certain users to access an organization’s wireless network.

Many locations simply ask for users to read a terms of service statement that absolves the network’s owner of legal liability for anything that goes wrong. While the terms of service will likely be breezed through in an effort to get online by most people, this is absolutely a solid legal defense for organizations who would otherwise suffer some liability for abuses of their network. Other organizations prefer to require a password for users to enter before they get online, with the password being known only to select people, requiring that people talk to an organization’s employees in person and verify that they are legitimate users. These passwords can also be randomized and generated by an organization’s employees, who can generate a password and pass it on to legitimate users. Once the user has been validated in one of these ways, the user’s packets will then go through the captive portal and be allowed access to the wider internet.

Many organizations use captive portals in order to have some control over who uses their networks. Usually only clients and employees of the organization are allowed access to the network, be they convention attendees, hotel guests and simply coffee house patrons. While wifi can be a great way to drum up business for many companies, excessive use of wifi by people the organization does not want using their network can bog down the network from overuse or even open the door to legal liabilities if something goes wrong. Some organizations, particularly hotels, may charge a fee to allow legitimate users to access the area’s network. While the cost of large scale bandwidth is getting cheaper, a few companies find that this is a valid way to make money on the side while saving money. Still, many organizations are allowing access to their networks for free as the technology becomes cheaper, easier to set up and more of a draw for an increasingly technological customer base.

This technology can also allow users to access a wifi network from their social media connections, usually Facebook. For a wifi network to be a social captive portal, it generally requires that users input their Facebook account name as well as the usual array of security codes. This is generally done in an effort to customize the advertising the user sees while accessing the organization’s wifi network. This may sound somewhat sketchy, but organizations can be protected from legal liability if they include the full legal ramifications of using the network via social media accounts in the terms of service at the portal page. Consulting a lawyer who understands such things is a good idea for organizations wishing to use this technology.