One easy way to discourage abuse for businesses offering WiFi is by requiring a password to connect to the network.
National Federation of Independent Business, a non-profit small-business
association, issued a warning to Main Street entrepreneurs who offer Internet
access to their customers: Take steps now to avoid allegations of online
piracy. Record labels, movie studios and other industry groups recently struck
a deal where participating Internet providers will issue warnings to customers
whose accounts are allegedly used to steal content.
businesses that offer Internet access, such as a coffee shop or a hotel or even
a car mechanic with a waiting area, should be aware of the industry's crackdown
on piracy and take steps to ensure their customers aren't using the service to
steal content," said Jan Meekcoms, the NFIB's Oregon state director. "Some
people don't want to pirate music from home because they're afraid of getting
caught, so they'll use the WiFi connection of a neighbor or the coffee shop
down the street."
the deal, customers whose accounts are allegedly used for piracy will receive
at least five alerts from their Internet provider. Upon sending the fifth
notice, the Internet provider may implement certain "mitigation measures" to
stop the alleged piracy, including reducing Internet speeds or redirecting
traffic to a special landing page until the customer contacts the Internet
provider to discuss the issue.
service providers wouldn't have to pull the plug on a customer after the sixth
notice, but that's a possibility, and that's where businesses have to watch
out," said Beth Milito, senior executive counsel for the NFIB. "Small
businesses rely on their Internet connections the same way they do the
telephone. It's how they communicate with customers and vendors. It's where
they do business."
can challenge a notice by paying a $35 filing fee and requesting an independent
review, or they may challenge any action in court, but doing so would be
time-consuming and take resources away from the business, Milito added. "That's
why small businesses need to take precautions to prevent customers or even
employees from using their Internet connection to steal content," she said.
easy way to discourage abuse for businesses offering WiFi is to prevent people
who aren't customers from using their Internet connection by requiring a password.
"For example, they could print a password on the receipt and change it
periodically, to prevent non-customers from using the service," Milito said.
can also block access to certain Websites and types of Websites, she added.
"This requires a little bit of know-how on the part of the small-business
owner, and it may accidentally block access to legitimate Websites, but it also
can discourage people from using a business's network to steal content," she
said. "With more and more people carrying smartphones and even tablets, free WiFi
can help a small business attract and keep customers, but unless a business
owner uses commonsense and takes precautions, those customers could come at a
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.