July 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm #165636
A few months ago I wrote a blog post about working from home…from anywhere. A colleague just sent me an article about office-away-from-home WiFi etiquette.
A friendly neighborhood coffee shop might seem like a great place to work for a few hours during the day…good workspace, outlets, unlimited caffeine, and free WiFi. Or…is it free? Coffee shops are private businesses, after all. The expectation is that you will buy my coffee, I will give you internet access. Theoretically, coffee shop or hotel lobby WiFi is a perk for patronizing the business, you’re not entitled to it simply for walking into the establishment and existing. Public WiFi offered by more and more local governments provides that service.
(That’s a Polaroid transfer I took at my local coffee shop.)
This blog post from the Seattle Times discusses coffee shop WiFi freeloaders. As a frequent (local, independent) coffee shop internet user, I absolutely feel that I need to purchase several items if I’m planning on a camping out for a few hours.
What do you think about “free” or open WiFi in private establishments? Do you have an obligation to patronize the business that offers the service if you log on, or do you feel that they should close the network if they don’t want freeloaders?
July 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm #165660
Great question. I have had my fair share of cookies and coffees at cafes when I didn’t necessarily want them but wanted wifi and felt more comfortable buying something in exchange for access. I’ve also used cafe wifi while sitting outside businesses before or after they are open for business and didn’t feel bad about it, mostly because if they wanted to keep people off the network they would shut down the system when they left for the night. I think it’s situational, but I tend to almost always patronize the business when I connect to their wifi.
July 10, 2012 at 12:32 am #165658
I agree with Samuel that you should patronize the establishment that offers free WiFi. That is why they offer it, not as a public service, but to increase traffic. That’s is the least you can do to repay them for offering free WiFi service. If they are smart, establishments should not close down WiFi networks. It’s a good investment and worth the risk.
July 10, 2012 at 6:39 am #165656
Have seen SOME organizations make some attempt to encourage the patrons to either purchase something or “move on”, Been some length of time now, but I recall, some national organizations required a purchase to get a logon ID and password which was only good for set length of time…
Because of security concerns, I have never felt terribly comfortable using a “public” WI-FI connection, and when I have “connected” I have made some effort to make sure that I was not a total free-loader, even when connecting after hours would make some special effort to patronize the establishment during normal business.
July 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm #165654
Here’s a response to this question that was submitted via GovLoop Facebook:
“If a private business wants to restrict its “free” wifi to paying customers only, it can easily set a password and give it out only with a purchase. That won’t stop all customers from giving the password away to a freeloader, but I think most customers will respect the principle of it. Wifi passwords are nothing new, so I don’t think it’s unfair to use “free” wifi without purchase if the business doesn’t bother to take steps to secure it.”
July 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm #165652
I definitely buy something if I walk into a place and use their wifi. Usually coffee, but if I know I am camping out for a few hours, I usually purchase a couple items.
July 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm #165650
Libraries would be another “free” source of wifi. Presumably you have already paid for their services through your taxes, so no obligation to buy coffee or baked goods. Many even offer downloadable books.
July 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm #165648
Some libraries are further along in the process than others…
Most libraries do have wifi but a significant percentage only allow access through the library’s computer(s)…
Although some of those that only allow access to the internet through thier computers are now allowing downloading ebooks…
July 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm #165646
Filter, a coffee shop in DC, not only doesn’t have wifi but it also bans laptops! Little signs are on tables encouraging patrons to put their computers away.
July 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm #165644
This also applies to meetings. I had a partner who every time he would settle the bill would say, “Ah, room rent!”
If you’re not looking forward to the coffee, go somewhere else. And that’s for your benefit, not someone else’s.
July 16, 2012 at 4:09 pm #165642
I like Terry’s point about wifi being a good investment for businesses – it definitely encourages repeat visitors who are looking for a place to settle down and do some work. Have you ever run into a situation though where all the tables are taken, so you take your business elsewhere? It seems to me that if you’re going to offer free WiFi, you would want to make sure you have enough seating to accommodate your wifi “freeloaders”.
July 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm #165640
I would never consider using the WiFi…or any other facility of a business without purchasing something. During the recent power outage, I was in an establishment with power for two hours for cool air, electric recharges, and WiFi… I purchased breakfast and lunch and a drink in between. I also used an extension cord with multiple outlets so as not to monopolize the outlet and let other desperate folks share in the unused plug places and chairs.
I explained to my son a few years back that while he was grounded and not allowed to use our WiFi that stealing the neighbors’ was the equivalent of illegal entry… the door may be unlocked but you are still not allowed to go in just because it is.
I like the option of getting a password from the establishment upon purchase or even a nominal fee for use. Unfortunately most places are simply not technical enough to bother or bother maintaining such systems.
For FED use, I’ve never used open WiFi… because we simply were told not to. The security is just not in place to work with anything even close to sensitive.
May 1, 2013 at 2:03 pm #165638
knowing that nothing is free…
no mention of the cost to the city in the Boston Globe: story….
I am certain that RCN Business Services, LCC International Inc., Pacific Telemanagement Services and DAS Communications are NOT doing this out of the goodness of their heart or to payback the city for the outstanding services that Boston has provided these companies….
Some pay phones in Boston to offer free Wi-Fi Internet hotspots this summer
Free Wi-Fi Internet access will soon be broadcast from 16 existing pay phones in Boston.
And officials from companies leading the effort hope to, pending city approval, rapidly expand the service so that a total of about 100 existing pay phones across Boston will offer free wireless Internet hotspots by the end of this summer. By the end of next summer, they hope they will have reached a total of about 400 payphones citywide.
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