Is free Wi-Fi under threat?

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by macjock, Aug 16, 2009.

  1. macjock macrumors regular

    May 30, 2008
  2. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    This has been going on for a long time, really...

    Starbucks offers free wifi with drink purchases, but didn't they make it time limited in the process of the switch to AT&T hotspots? I think a number of other chains also have tried time limited access -- there's a tea place I go to in Chicago and they give you a code for 2 hours or something on your receipt. There was an independent in my neighborhood there that also turned its wifi off on the weekends. They've gone back and forth over allowing plug-point access, too.

    At the extreme end, there's a coffee shop down the street from me that has an open porch on the front with seating and outdoor power points. I not infrequently see people sitting there when the coffee shop isn't even open to use the wifi and power outlets. In a loosely related rant, at the library here, there are so many people who bring their laptops in and watch online video (I guess because there's free internet and it's air conditioned) that there aren't free tables to use if you actually want to use them to read the books. And twice I brought my notebook there just to log into their network for five minutes to print something out, and there were so many people camped out there that the router wouldn't assign me an IP... :rolleyes:

    Consumers have to be reasonable too -- free wifi isn't an invitation to turn a coffee shop into your home office.

    When I'm doing things like writing stories, I like to drag my notebook to a coffee shop and people watch and write. I write better in public spaces like that. But I do it in 2 hour chunks or less -- It's obnoxious to camp out there for eight hours with your notebook and your business files and use two chargers for your phone and notebook and conduct your job from there all day.

    I think one of the challenges is that, once you get into things like time-limited access, unless you do it by manually asking people to leave, the kind of system that Starbucks has AT&T run is too complicated to expect some poor independent coffee shop person to set up and run.
  3. dmmcintyre3 macrumors 68020

    Mar 4, 2007
    I have never used the wifi at coffee shops. The last time I tried at starbucks it used T-Mobile but now it uses AT&T which my internet includes access at the hotspots run by AT&T. But I still have never used one. Seems like a security hole.

    (Well I was using it once at this grocery store and used it to look up a competitor's address and get directions to them. We did buy stuff from them and we sat in the car while we did it. The PowerBook did not want to do it though)
  4. macjock thread starter macrumors regular

    May 30, 2008
    I had a chuckle at the girl that stays for up to 4 hours but qualified it by saying she buys 1 or 2 drinks.

  5. localoid macrumors 68020


    Feb 20, 2007
    America's Third World
    There are inexpensive solutions (<$100 US per year) that will provide the wifi hotspot management software that links to (remote) authentication servers that will provide the shop keeper with control features such as content filtering, bandwidth throttling/control, user time and transfer limits, firewall configuration, reports, etc. Unfortunately, many small shop owners simply do not feel there is any need for them to pay any money for a wifi user-management system. They'd much rather do it the "cheap 'n' easy" way by simply opening up access on a $45 wifi-router from WalMart, which of course opens up the potential of abuse by customers or by anyone within range of their wifi signal.
  6. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    Hmmm, wow, I didn't think there'd be anything this cheap. Interesting.
  7. dmmcintyre3 macrumors 68020

    Mar 4, 2007
    1 option might be to add plug ports in a small section for the computer users. Make only 25% of the seats laptop seats.
  8. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Me too. I wrote my PhD thesis away from my desk. I spent some of my time at the cafés as well since I find it far easier to work there than anywhere else. When I didn't need the WiFi, I'd just turn off the WiFi on my laptop when not in use. When I needed it, I turned it back on.

    I didn't want to be on it, or tempted to use it, when I didn't need it. I think other patrons were far less considerate, and I really can't blame a café for taking away free WiFi, or limiting its access to 1 hour per >$5 purchase (that would probably mean a coffee and some sort of cake).
  9. Heilage macrumors 68030


    May 1, 2009
    Well, inside every router is the possibility to limit the DHCP lease any computer is given. It could be done this way too.
  10. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Oct 9, 2006
    While very true that it is out there. I also think it is sad that things like this are happening and needed because a few people so badly abuse the system. General the coffee house can expect some people to come in there for an hour or 2 at a time to get coffee and use the internet but general those people do not do it every day. Hell for the most part I would say it is reasonable to expect some one to leave a coffee house with in an hour. That is your average long users. But being there all day is insane.

    I will admit that at one coffee house that I had a few 4-5 hour sittings using the internet and working on my computer while in college but even then it was few and far between and always when I was working on a paper would those long time spans last but considering I was a regular customer who normally would show up get coffee and leave with in 10 mins I think that is ok. I some times would say for 45-1 hour killing time waiting for class and even then it was rare to see me pull out the laptop. Normally I just would read the paper.

    It those people who go there all day every day for 8 hour that ruin it for everyone.
  11. leekohler macrumors G5


    Dec 22, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
    Every coffee shop in my neighborhood has free Wi-Fi. One place tried to charge for it, but the company that ran it screwed it up so bad, it wasn't worth it, so they stopped charging. Now there's simply a rule that you have to buy something once every hour. It's worked much better for the shop.
  12. njl macrumors regular

    Mar 15, 2009
    when more and more people start sniffing packets, peeps won't be so happy about free wifi around town. LOL
  13. jbernie macrumors 6502a


    Nov 25, 2005
    Denver, CO
    Getting away from the actual coffee... Starbucks is pretty good.. if you have a starbucks card and use it or top it up just once per month you can get 2 hours free (or should we call it subsidized?) wifi per day. Its a good option to have as well there are thousands of them and if you really need an internet connection...
  14. benthewraith macrumors 68040


    May 27, 2006
    Miami, FL
    That's why you don't do your banking at public hotspots?
  15. tabasco70 macrumors 6502

    Mar 10, 2009
    soon there will be wireless internet that can be accessed from anywhere, any time, for free.

    one day.

    maybe a company like google.

    That would obliterate telephone companies.

Share This Page