Making Money Servicing Free WiFi

WiFi Networking news has the scoop on Surf and Sip’s latest internet cafe in a box. Apparently, Airpath launched a similar offering a few weeks back. I think this is a very smart plan. At Techdirt, we’ve been saying for a while that it’s going to be difficult for fee-based hotspots to make money, and for many (not necessarily all) hotspots it would make a lot more sense to offer the WiFi for free, and use it as a promotion to bring in more (happier) customers. Nancy Gohring at WiFi Networking News thinks Surf and Sip and Airpath are offering this sort of service to get places hooked, only to upsell them later on their for-fee offerings. I’m not so sure. I think many more places are going to realize the benefits of just going free in offering WiFi, and these two companies are positioning themselves ahead of all those companies focused on fee-only WiFi. This way, they have a big headstart when those other companies start trying to figure out how to shift their business model in a world where free WiFi is much more popular. With this setup, Surf and Sip and Airpath get steady revenue and don’t have to worry about getting enough people in to use the system (and pay). Plus, it’s great for the owners of the hotspots, since they’re not tasked with becoming ISPs and tech support geeks themselves.

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