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Providing "free wifi" at condo?

Posted on 2011-09-05
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Last Modified: 2013-12-09
I'd like to provide "free wifi" in our condo's social room as an amenity.

However, I don't want to provide "free wifi" to the people who live right next to it because Comcast is our provider, and we have a 250 gig / month cap.

I also don't want to create any legal problems.

Questions:
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1. How to I prevent any legal/liability issues: what if someone downloads illegal music or porn from the internet connection registered to the condo?   Do those "I accept" web redirect things you see at hotel wifi mean anything in that regard?  Is that something that can be done with a cheap $50 router, or do I need something fancy?

2. How can I protect our bandwidth from the cheap-skates who live next door and would love to cancel their comcast connection and just use our "free wifi"?

3. Do I have to let Comcast know I'm operating a "free wifi" spot?  Isn't it in their EULA that you can't share internet with your neighbor?

I sounds more complicated than buying a $50 linksys router and connecting it to our comcast cable modem.

Any & All suggestions would be very much appreciated,
Thanks,
Mike
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Question by:mike2401
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Expert Comment

by:wkrasner
ID: 36483963
Why not purchase a commercial account under the common area fee from comcast,  that way any member would be entitled to use it.  Then use one of the security features on the router ie wep.  There is also software you can run on a server on the net to monitor web transactions,  but rather  I would suggest having a condo user's agreement specifying the condo association will be held harmless for illegal use(check with your attorney on language and enforceability). Of course you should should check with your attorney regarding the legal matters and if there are any local or state issues.
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Author Comment

by:mike2401
ID: 36484156
If we put a wep/wpa password on it, and post it on the bulletin board, then the people who live right next to it would be able to authenticate, and use it as their every day internet service, slowing down others, and heavily contributing towards the 250 gig/month cap.

And, it's not just owners, but guests, employees, or others who have physical access to the room; so,a condo owner agreement wouldn't be enough.   However, maybe one of those redirects to a web page where the person about to use the service waives and agrees, etc.

Thx

Mike
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Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 36484384
If you're going to be that concerned about everyone using it, then you shouldn't do it.  As an IT consultant, I hear similar questions from other consultants when talking about becoming a managed service provider - "if I provide all the help they need for a fixed fee, won't they call me for EVERY LITTLE THING?" and they just don't.

My recommendation is similar to wkrasner's  - draw up an agreement and anyone who wants to use the wifi has to sign the agreement.  The agreement would say (check with the attorneys about this) the end user is responsible for their activity and the activity of their guests.  Once the agreement is signed, give them a user name and password and this can be logged whenever it's used.  And no, a cheap linksys router will not work for this - you'll need an expensive wireless router.

That said, you MUST talk to comcast and find out what level of service is required to allow this to be done legally.  (We can't help or encourage you to violate a company's EULA).

You could just do like my Car Dealer's service center does - they post it on a paper behind the counter for all to see... those walking by can't read it unless they go inside.   (What are non-condo residents doing using the community room?  Is it a problem that non-residents frequently enter it?)  And you can turn off the wifi (pull the plug on the router) when the room is closed or after certain hours - this would be a major incentive for anyone who would think about living off that wifi connection to keep their own.
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Expert Comment

by:wkrasner
ID: 36484470
regarding wep,  you could come up with something only the condo owners would know based on the month and year and change it monthly.  
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Accepted Solution

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jgibbar earned 500 total points
ID: 36484553
Regarding the neighbors having access, how large is the social room?

Consider buying an access point in which you can control the Radios Tx Power. This would allow you to dial the signal down to a particular room and since the signal does not have as much power, the chances are very good that it would not make it much farther than the buildings walls.

I agree with the above statement regarding talking to Comcast as well just so you have all your ducks in a row.
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Author Comment

by:mike2401
ID: 36504890
I appreciate everyone's comments, but jgibbar's are the most helpful, specifically about reducing xmit power.

It's a 20 story high-rise.  The social room is on the 2nd floor.  There are residential condo's on the second floor (left & right of the room), as well as on the 3rd floor, so I didn't want to provide free internet access to those 4 units, and have them chew up all our bandwidth.

Indeed, I'll need to contact comcast to make sure we'd be legal.

Thanks again to everyone,
Mike

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Author Closing Comment

by:mike2401
ID: 36504897
Thank you!
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Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 36504972
By selecting only one comment you have effectively said that the other comments did not provide any help at all.

If that's not the case, you should have split the points.  Many people GAVE you their time (free of charge) to offer you assistance and the "reward" or "thank you" for doing so is an acknowledgement that what they said was helpful.

And "so I didn't want to provide free internet access to those 4 units, and have them chew up all our bandwidth." Doesn't make much sense considering that you're using shared bandwidth anyway for almost certainly the entire building.
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Author Comment

by:mike2401
ID: 36505107
Leew: I'm very sorry.  Didn't want to offend anyone.  

Of my 3 part question, part one was legal:  I was hoping someone might have some particular insight (like DMCA this, or  fair harbor that, or tort whatchamacallit.)  Asking our lawyer was always on the table, I was just hoping to avoid doing that.

part 2 was protecting the bandwidth. we don't have one huge giant pipe for the entire building. this would be new service, and I presume would be subject to the 250 gig cap per month.  If only used by occasional visitors in the social room, it would certainly not be an issue.  If, however, this one line was the primary daily internet connection for 4 residential condos in 'ear-shot', in additional to social room visitors, then it could indeed be a problem.  That's why I was soo impressed with the idea of dialing down the xmit signal so as not penetrate the wall.

Part 3 was: must I let comcast know: After writing that, it sounds obvious.

However,I truly do appreciate everyone's time in responding.

I never know whether to spread the point wealth or just ack the responses which I (or others) would find helpful.  

In any event, I'll be happy to share the points because I do appreciate the effort.

Mike





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Author Comment

by:mike2401
ID: 36505116
So, how exactly do I award points on a call that is closed?

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