The Price Of Free WiFi? Stringent Filters?

from the fun-fun-fun dept

For all the talk about offering free WiFi at various locations, it appears that some are realizing that using the free WiFi also means obeying the owners’ rules — which sometimes seems to include overly stringent filtering of web access. This isn’t a new problem at all, and plenty have complained about similar problems. The main issue isn’t that people want to use their free WiFi to get at porn, but that the filters are overly restrictive, often blocking personal blogs as porn sites. While it is annoying for some — and there should be an easy way to point out that a site shouldn’t be blocked, they are still providing the service for free, so there’s only so much people can do. Where it gets tricky is when they’re advertising the free WiFi as a way to get work done, and sites necessary for work are blocked… While it’s reasonable that companies providing free WiFi don’t want to worry about people surfing for porn in public places, the situation seems similar to libraries. If they’re in a public place, peer pressure and social conventions will hopefully solve the problem — and if someone is in a private place (such as a hotel room), is it really a problem? Update: And, now, while some hotels are blocking blogs, it appears that others are setting up special internal blogs for customers, so that when they log in via their in-room WiFi, they can see what’s going on around the hotel, or contact others at the same hotel.

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Comments on “The Price Of Free WiFi? Stringent Filters?”

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TomHiggins (user link) says:

Nocat, free wifi and community groups

Many Community Wireless groups use Nocat to show an AUP and let folks know about the network they are using … and thats it. They are not filtering content, in fact many of these groups have singed onto a global peering agreement ( that specificaly is against that.

Im part of a group in Portland OR called the Personal Telco Project ( and we use Nocat on most of our nodes. We dont filter content at all.


Chris Reuter (user link) says:

It Makes Perfect Sense

Look at it from the operator’s point of view. If the filter errs on the side of caution and blocks legitimate sites, they can shrug and say, “Hey, what do you expect for free.” If, on the other hand, the child of the wrong person successfully downloads pornography, they could get sued or boycotted. It really isn’t worth it to risk that.

I suppose, though, that they could remove the filters selectively for anyone who presents ID and signs a waiver, but they’re probably not there yet in terms of infrastructure.

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