This is the second in a series of blog posts about Public Wi-Fi opportunities. Of course, these are just the opinions of this author.
I know this one is going to cause some consternation with folks who like the seemingly easy sale of pushing Wi-Fi that “pays for itself”. But I again plead for you to think of how you personally like to access the Internet. I doubt any of you reading this enjoy paying for something that is normally free in other locations.
The simple truth is Wireless LANs cost money. They cost money to design, install, and maintain. There is also the on-going cost of providing the Internet backhaul. Yes there are some substantial costs involved. But no more so than other free public services businesses provide their customers all the time.
A couple of examples of other services the have both up-front, and on-going costs that businesses gladly pay in order to support customer expectations:
• Public Restrooms
• Public Lobbies
• Security Cameras
• Security Services
• Custodial Services
• Snow Removal
• Garbage Services
• Free Breakfast in Hospitality
And that is just to name a few that came to the top of my head. Businesses provide services to their customers all the time. Yes, I agree, there are situations where a business charges or controls access to bathrooms, parking, or charges for breakfasts. Yet the majority of businesses pay for these services because it is just good for business!
The up-and-coming trend in our industry is to charge back customers for accessing the ‘Free’ public Wi-Fi by making a ‘trade’. If the customer wants to access the Internet, just click a couple of buttons, watch a few advertisements, and Like on Facebook. These exchanges are rarely understood by the end customer, and the provider now owns the data concerning the customer.
Those who sell to providers think this is a great thing. It again allows them to sell Wi-Fi that “Pays for itself”. Rather than sell Wi-Fi as a service provided to bring in new customers and maintain them. Those I’ve spoken with ignore any complaints and try to not think of the social implications stating, “It is up to the provider to deal with privacy and security issues, we just sell the solution.”
Yet these are the same folks who actively promote the analytics, and tracking features that put privacy in jeopardy.
Free should mean just that. No cost. No exchanges. Nothing traded. Just plain free. Businesses don’t charge every time you ride an escalator, or every time you throw something in a waste bin, or every time a security guard keeps a shopping mall safe from pickpockets. So why is it even thinkable to charge for accessing another public service? You don’t charge a per use fee for availing oneself of restroom facilities, or even force someone to watch an advertisement before you let them ride an elevator. Don’t do it with Wi-Fi as well!
Free just means Free.
The next installment will cover another factor in providing Public Wi-Fi – make it easy.