Interesting FAQS about Wireless Internet for customers. (Scroll down for FAQS for location owners.)
What do I need to use the Wireless Internet connection at a Wi-Fi-FreeSpot?
You'll need a Wireless Internet enabled laptop or other device like a tablet or smartphone. Most laptops are configured for Wireless Internet and most will come equipped with a Wireless Internet card. Otherwise, you'll need to purchase a Wireless Internet adapter card ($50-90).
What if I need Help connecting?
Most locations are striving to make the connection process as easy as possible. The goal is to automatically configure your laptop for connection. But, as you can imagine, with lots of different vendors selling access points and Wireless Internet cards there could be specific configuration instructions you'll need to follow. By and large do not expect much help from the staff at the hotspot. They are waiters, waitresses or baristas, not tech support people. Hopefully they will at least be able to supply you with an instructional guide but don't count on it. If you are using a hotspot that offers free access you won't find any toll free tech support number to call (that's one reason why they are able to offer the access for free). You'll probably be on your own so it would help to familiarize yourself with the instructions for your card beforehand or bring them with you. Some hints that should work in most locations - 1) Be sure to set your TCP/IP properties to "Obtain and IP address automatically" (DHCP). 2) Make sure your computer is not configured to automatically use a dial-up connection. 3) If requested, choose Infrastructure mode rather than ad-hoc mode. 4) Use the SSID name provided by the location or try choosing "any". ( If you use Net Stumbler to find available networks it should tell you the SSID of the network you want to use ) 5) Turn encryption (WEP) off.
What can I do at a Wi-Fi-FreeSpot?
The Wi-Fi wireless broadband connection allows you to do anything you'd do from home or the office. You can surf the Web, check your e-mail, connect to your Corporate network (be sure to use a secure VPN connection), make free Voice over IP phone calls, play online games, update your blog, and IM with your friends. If you just have a modem dial-up account at home you'll probably end up spending more time at the FreeSpot once you see how much faster it is. Who knows, maybe you'll give up your dial-up account and just use the FreeSpot when you want to go online. (Your ability to send e-mail from a FreeSpot is somewhat dependent on the policy of the location's Internet Service Provider(ISP) - some ISPs restrict the ability to send email when not connected to the Internet directly through them. If you have a problem ask the FreeSpot location owner for their SMTP server info, or consider using a web based e-mail account.)
Is my data and e-mail secure at a Wi-Fi-FreeSpot?
You should never conduct unsecured transactions that include any account or password information over public hotspots using FTP, email, or the Web. Try to use SSL for email (POP and SMTP), or read your email with a Web browser using an SSL connection. Ask your ISP if they offer SSL ecure web-based email.
Glenn Fleishman, author of the book The Wireless Networking Starter Kit, sums it up thusly, " When data leaves your computer, if it's not on an encrypted link, anyone can read everything you send and receive."
Here's what the Wi-Fi Alliance says:
Wireless networks in public areas and "HotSpots" like Internet cafes may not provide any security. Although some service providers do provide this with their custom software, many HotSpots leave all security turned off to make it easier to access and get on the network in the first place. If security is important to you the best way to achieve this when you are connecting back to your office is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). If you do not have access to a VPN and security is important, you may want to limit your wireless network use in these areas to non-critical e-mail and basic Internet surfing.
Most corporate IT departments are already skilled with VPN and can modify existing systems to support Wi-Fi networks. A VPN works through the VPN server at the company headquarters, creating an encryption scheme for data transferred to computers outside the corporate offices. The special VPN software on the remote computer or laptop uses the same encryption scheme, enabling the data to be safely transferred back and forth with no chance of interception.
Here's more info from the NewburyOpen.net security page:
Wireless transmissions, by their nature, can be intercepted very easily. Our wireless network was designed for ease of use, and thus is not encrypted or password protected. You have the responsibility to make sure that your data is kept secure and that you use secure protocols for any sensitive material. We take no responsibility for any information that is compromised by the use of our network. Also, make sure that your computer does not have file sharing active ( for Windows - click on network settings in the Control Panel, then find and uncheck file and print sharing). Other users on the network may be able to access your files if you do. Read the full document here.
In addition, it would be wise to use some kind of personal firewall to further protect against someone at the next table from accessing your files.
Additionally, Julian Bond of Ecademy.com suggests the use of SSL encryption for e-mail connections whenever possible.
What precautions should Wi-Fi-FreeSpot operators take regarding data security and acceptable use of the network?
Wi-Fi-FreeSpot owners should establish and publish security and acceptable use policies. Essentially, it is the responsibility of the user to keep their data safe and their obligation to refrain from any spamming or illegal activities.
Do I need to purchase goods or services before I can get free access in a Wi-Fi-FreeSpot?
A few locations might offer free access in exchange for a purchase but, by and large, it is not necessary but surely would be appreciated. If you are just on the premises for the Wireless Internet connection and don't intend to make a purchase you should consider limiting your stay to a reasonable time period. Also, be considerate, give up your seat if someone who has made a purchase needs one. Most Hotel/Motel/Resort locations restrict the free access to guests only, especially if the access is in guest rooms only. Some locations may also have free Wi-Fi access in common areas like lobbies, restaurants and meeting rooms and this may be available to non-guests as well. Some signals can even be picked up from the parking lot.
Interesting FAQS about Wireless Internet for location owners.
Will offering free Wireless Internet Access increase my business?
Here's a quote from a Boston Globe article by D.C. Denison - Neila Hingorani, general manager of NewburyOpen.net participant Trident Booksellers and Cafe, told Denison that the answer is yes. "We definitely have new, regular customers who come here just because of the WiFi," she said.
How do I know if my location would benefit from offering Wireless Internet access?
The largest group of users today is anyone who owns a laptop computer and travels for business. When they're away from their office they'll be looking for a public access connection. If your location is near where business travelers stay overnight, congregate or pass by during their stay in your area, offering free Wireless Internet access would be a way to get them in your shop. You might first think of the business professional who travels mostly by airplane but this group would include freight hauling truck drivers as well.
Another traveling group to consider is RV owners off on a weekend or week long vacation trip or retirees on an extended trip. Anywhere they stop to re-fuel or stay overnight would be a good location to offer a Wireless Internet connection that allows them to stay in touch with family and friends.
Is your location near office buildings? Those buildings are probably full of people looking for a place to come on their break or for lunch where they can bring their laptop and stay "connected".
Are the residents of your neighborhood likely to own a laptop computer? If they only have a dial-up connection at home they'll love having access to your broadband connection while drinking a latte or having a sandwich and a beer.
Even if your local neighborhood doesn't have these potential customers find areas of your town or city where they live and let them know about your Wireless Internet access.
If I build it will they come?
They will if they know about it! Take advantage of every opportunity to promote your free Wireless Internet access.
- Make sure you are listed in the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot Directory.
- Make sure your customers know you offer free Wireless Internet access. Put up signage in your business that everyone will see. Also put it on your menus or other material your customers see and read.
- Put the FreeSpot Directory logo (see below) or something similar in your window that passersby will see. Maybe they were headed to one of your competitors but finding out about your free access might be enough to turn them into your customer.
- Make sure that local businesses know about your free access. Office workers can bring their laptops with them for breaks and lunches. If you fax your menu to local businesses every day make sure you tell them about the free access.
- Train your employees to mention to customers that you offer free Wireless Internet access.
Will my employees need special training about Wireless Internet?
At the very least, they should be trained to hand out or point to an instructions sheet that will explain how customers can configure their device to connect to the network (devices should find your network automatically). Your access point manufacturer's set-up guide should help you gather the info about your network name (SSID), password/encryption settings, use of DHCP to get an IP address automatically, and operation mode. Fully explained instructions will not only help your customers but also your employees. (If you have advertisers that support your free access the instructions sheet is an excellent place to thank them and let your customers know about their support.)
Will a microwave oven or cordless phone interfere with the network?
Microwave ovens and many cordless phones operate in the same 2.4 GHz radio spectrum used by 802.11 wireless networks. Thus, they can cause interference, but in most instances this will usually just slow down the connection, not stop transmission or break the connection.
To reduce interference, you can move a cordless phone away from your Wi-Fi computer or base station. Interference usually only happens with older microwave ovens. Check with the manufacturer of your equipment for specific instructions.
If you're looking for help with technical or other questions try these bulletin board forums.
Can I use the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot Directory logo to tell people about our Free Wireless Internet Access.
Yes. We have two copies of the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot Directory logo in PDF format (you'll need Acrobat Reader) that can be printed out on 8 1/2 x 11 paper and placed in your window to let people know you offer FREE Wireless Internet access.
Download Logo #1 - prints horizontally, 33 Kb.
Download Logo #2 - prints vertically and includes the words FREE WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS below the logo, 39 Kb.
Here's a small button you can grab (PC users can right click and save image/picture) for use on your web site.
Feel free to contact us with any other requests for usage of the logo.
For more news and information about free Wireless Internet read the Free Wi-Fi News Weblog