I don’t think I’m alone when I admit that I have a love-hate relationship with establishments that offer free WiFi. I am most certainly a part of the minority when it comes to mobile communication in that I do not subscribe to a costly monthly data plan. Instead, I rely on affordable day passes purchased through my cellular provider, as well as free wireless generously extended by cafes and restaurants. Regarding the latter, I genuinely try not to take advantage of a small business’s offer of free WiFi, much the same as the freedom to use their restrooms in a pinch. In both cases, I always make a concerted effort to make a token purchase, or throw some loose change into the tip jar. Whether you call it good karma, human decency or simply the right thing to do, unfortunately there are many people who display wanton disregard for proper WiFi etiquette. It irks me to walk into a locally owned cafe and spot dozens of non-paying customers who are there simply to leach free bandwidth. Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:
Should local restaurants and cafes place restrictions on WiFi usage?
- Yes. Paying customers only. (48%, 38 Votes)
- No. Free WiFi is essential. (30%, 24 Votes)
- Yes. Time Restrictions. (14%, 11 Votes)
- Doesn't Matter, I have a data plan. (8%, 6 Votes)
Total Voters: 79
Not to single out any business in particular, but if you were to stroll on by cafes like The Sleepless Goat, Starbucks, Coffeeco and even McDonalds, you’ll be met with starkly different policies and practices concerning free wireless. Some of these establishments go so far as to promote the fact that they have free WiFi, while others simply do not police its usage or require users to be paying customers. I suppose the mentality is that if these businesses can get us in the door, we’ll eventually buy something. Nevertheless, this stance has created what one author refers to as “laptop squatters and hobos“, while businesses have responded by banning laptops, changing WiFi passwords every 2 hours, and covering electrical outlets to deter people from setting up their mobile office. Such measures may seem a bit extreme for Kingstonians who are use to less strict rules, however some local establishments have enacted similar strategies in that wireless networks are password protected, passwords change frequently and soft time restrictions are placed on how long you can sit without being a paying customer.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against businesses offering free wireless. If businesses go so far as to give away bandwidth to the non-paying public, that’s certainly their prerogative and we all benefit. However, my concern with that arrangement is that small businesses might not be able to offer the same technological amenities as larger, corporately owned chains. Where should we draw the line on WiFi etiquette? Or, should we simply let businesses play by their own rules and let the chips fall where they may? Drop off your thoughts below.
Thanks to Vinu Thomas for today’s photo.