A [Telegraph] reader asks how he might safely and legally share his WiFi connection
Originally Published in The The Telegraph - 08 May 2012 - Rick Maybury
On my farm I have three holiday cottages where I plan to offer Wi-Fi access to guests using a router located in the building's roof. Not all guests are interested in using the Internet or checking email while on holiday, but an increasing number are so, to cover the cost of offering the service and any surcharges, which may arise due to excess downloading etc., I want to levy a nominal charge. Is it practical? Are there any snags that I should be aware of?
Ron Racher, Sherborne, Dorset
Even though you are proposing a very small-scale system you can’t simply install a wireless router and allow your guests to access the web willy-nilly. There are a number of legal implications to be aware of, as detailed in the 1998 Data Protection Act and the Digital Economy Act 2010, and there are hefty fines for transgressors. The key issues are that you have to be able to identify and keep a record of your guest’s online activities in case they are involved in downloading illegal content, copyright infringement and so on. There’s a summary of the pertinent regulations on the Cyberair website.
Hotspot management software packages and services are widely available, which provide the mandatory user logging features. Other features include the facility limit your guest’s bandwidth, filter content and ‘brand’ your connection; just type ‘hotspot software’ into your favourite search engine for ideas and suggestions.
As for charging for web access, numerous surveys and travel industry research has shown that the provision of free Wi-Fi can be a big selling point when it comes to booking accommodation. It can be a deal breaker for business travellers, but it is becoming increasingly important for holidaymakers. Web access can be genuinely useful for finding out about local attractions, booking restaurants, travel news and weather, not to mention keeping the kids quiet and socially networked. Considering the relatively modest outlay involved, weighed against the benefits to your guests, and the competitive advantage it can give to your business, absorbing the costs, or building it into your rates, would appear to make good commercial sense.