The Pitfalls of Guest Wi-Fi

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Do you remember the days before mobile broadband was commonplace and connection speeds on 2G wireless were barely usable? How often did you seek out a specific location such as a coffee shop or a hotel that offered a free or (more likely) purchasable Wi-Fi connection?

Times have changed. Now, we expect to have free and performant Wi-Fi wherever we happen to be – on a train, at an airport, visiting our favorite retail destination, at a baseball game, and in other public spaces.

There are many benefits for the businesses and organizations that provide guest Wi-Fi, including increased foot traffic, superior customer experiences, and improved brand perception. However, as many businesses and organizations are discovering, there are challenges around providing guest Wi-Fi services, too.

Before we dive deeper into this topic, I want to briefly cover the gray area regarding users accessing or downloading copyrighted or illegal material when connected to a guest Wi-Fi network.

There are numerous pieces of legislation that cover copyright material; consider, for example, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the United States, and the Digital Economy Act (2010) in the United Kingdom. The common perception is that service providers and intermediaries such as the businesses that are offering Wi-Fi connectivity are responsible for any copyright breach. This is incorrect. Under the DMCA and Union Electronic Commerce Directive 2000, ISPs and intermediaries are exempt of any responsibility around users accessing or downloading copyrighted material.

When it comes to illegal content, a similar indemnity is adopted. As of December 2017, no ISP or intermediary has been prosecuted for allowing users to access or download copyrighted or illegal content.

So, if ISPs and guest Wi-Fi providers are devoid of responsibility for unsuitable content consumption, what is the issue around users accessing inappropriate materials?

In a nutshell, it’s all about brand reputation.

Imagine you are at your local coffee shop with your children, sipping your latte and generally enjoying life. You then notice that there’s another patron who is – and there’s no easy way to say this – viewing adult content. Ignoring for a moment what you may think about the person, what’s your perception of the coffee shop at that point? Are you likely to see the brand in a positive light? Will you be visiting the place again? Will you tell others about your experience? For most people, the answers are likely to be no, no, and yes.

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About Akamai Technologies
If you've ever shopped online, downloaded music, watched a web video or connected to work remotely, you've probably used Akamai's cloud platform. Akamai helps businesses connect the hyperconnected, empowering them to transform and reinvent their business online. We remove the complexities of technology so you can focus on driving your business faster forward – enabling you to embrace trends like cloud, mobile and media, while overcoming the challenges presented by security threats and the need to reach users globally. Customers trust our cloud platform to securely deliver high-performing user experiences to any device, anywhere. Reaching globally and delivers locally, The Akamai Intelligent Platform™, provides customers with unmatched reliability, security, and visibility into their online businesses.

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