The Wi-Fi-FreeSpot Directory does not list private, residential locations ( except for vacation rental properties where access is included in the rental fee ), only publicly accessible locations. Although many home owners and renters have chosen to leave their wireless in an open unsecured state that can be freely accessed by their neighbors and passersby, the location is not accessible to the public for entry. Cafes, libraries and the other locations listed in the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot Directory can be entered by the public, even though they may choose to access the signal from outside if possible.
Efforts are made to insure that the information contained in the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot Directory is accurate. But, occasionally you may find that a listed location does not offer Free Wi-Fi access at your time of visit. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to location owners and visitors. When possible, it is best to check with the location in advance of your visit.
A few things to keep in mind about some Free Wi-Fi high speed internet access locations.
- It is an open unsecured connection. Use a VPN - virtual private network - for extra protection if you plan to transfer any sensitive information.
Read this BoingBoing article by Glenn Fleishman about how to protect yourself from Firesheep users who can grab your login info from sites like Facebook, etc. that don't encrypt the network traffic. In essence, when you're using an unsecured Free Wi-Fi connection set up your own security.
- The signal may not always be on or be strong.
- In fact, it may be from another location. Try to make sure you are accessing the right network signal for the location you're at (although that may not always be possible if you don't know the network name/SSID). In airports in particular beware of networks named "Free Wi-Fi" or a similar name, it's an ad hoc, peer-to-peer network, possibly set up as a trap by someone with a laptop nearby.
- Some locations may require a purchase to get the login info required to connect.
- Some locations may have SafeSurf type software installed that will restrict access to some web sites.
- Don't expect to get much support help from the staff, they're waitresses or baristas, etc., not tech support people. Some may not even know it exists.
- Don't expect to find many plugs. Make sure your battery is charged or bring a spare.
- Some locations will not allow outgoing e-mail to be sent via their SMTP server. Use a web based e-mail account if you need to send e-mail while in this type of free location.
- If you are just on the premises for the Wi-Fi connection and don't intend to make a purchase you should consider limiting your stay to a reasonable time period. Also, be considerate, give up your seat if someone who has made a purchase needs one.
- At a lot of Hotzones or other similarly named types of access that cover an outdoors area (usually town, city or municipality sponnsored/provided), the signal may or may not carry to the inside of and be available in the businesses within the Hotzone.
- It's Free!
Use Mapquest or Maps.com to find listing locations.
What does Free Wi-Fi really mean?
As the availability of Free Wi-Fi locations continues to spread I thought it might be good to review what Free might mean in different types of locations. The locations listed in the Wi-Fi FreeSpot Directory all offer some type of Free Wi-Fi access to the public, but sometimes there may be access requirements/restrictions that are unique to a particular type of location, and therefore the access, although free, may not be available to everyone/anyone. While accessing the Free Wi-Fi in certain locations you will be spending money to pay for a Hotel room or space in a RV Resort or for coffee in a cafe, etc. so the following information should help to clarify what Free Wi-Fi really means in different locations.
Most of the locations listed will not have any restrictions, but there will be some locations that may restrict access in several ways - through a login procedure to users with a registered account that requires you to be a registered guest of their facility - some may require you to be a customer who has made a purchase to gain a password needed to login - and some may ask some survey questions as part of a login process.
Many cities and towns are now offering Free Wi-Fi in their public libraries. Some might require a library card to use the access but in public libraries free really means free - no puchase required or expected. Many libraries have software that will restrict access to many "questionable" web sites.
Many academic institutions that offer Free Wi-Fi on their campuses restrict the access to members of their academic community - students, staff, etc. - and require some kind of login procedure to control access, but, there are some that don't have any restrictions. So, in academic locations, it is free but maybe not free for all.
Hotels, Motels and Resorts
If these locations offer Free Wi-Fi in their guest rooms then you'd need to be a registered guest to use the access, thus, free may mean it's included in the price of the room. If these locations offer Free Wi-Fi in common areas of the location - lobby, pool area, restaurant, bar/lounge, meeting rooms - the use may be restricted to guests but they may make the access available to non-guests as well. Assume that most Hotel type free Wi-Fi is meant for guests only, even in the common public areas, but you can alays try it at a listed location just in case it is not.
RV Parks and Campgrounds
Most locations of this type will require users to be registered guests of the location. Be sure to check whether the Free Wi-Fi access is available only in or near a "clubhouse" type of building or whether the access reaches the RV pads and campsite areas of the property.
Vacation Rental Properties
You must be the renter of the property to access the wireless high speed internet access provided by the property owner as an amenity.
Cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, miscellaneous, etc.
Some of these locations require a purchase to obtain a password while others have an explicit policy that requires you to be a customer and thus implies that you'll be making a purchase to get the free access. Some require you to ask for a password even without a purchase.
Most of these locations do not require a purchase to access the Free Wi-Fi. But, I'm sure it would certainly be appreciated. Let your conscience be your guide. The access here is free for all but if you choose to make a purchase while you're there I don't think this would mean that free is no longer free.
The Directory does list some businesses, for example; medical offices, dental offices, law offices, real estate agent offices, car dealerships etc., that offer Free Wi-Fi to their clients while on the premises. They are most likely not locations where the general public would be welcome just to access the Free Wi-Fi, but they are listed as access providers. Some people may choose to select these businesses for their medical or other needs based on the availability of Free Wi-Fi during their visits.
What if I need Help connecting?
Most locations are striving to make the connection process as easy as possible. The goal is to automatically configure your laptop for connection. But, as you can imagine, with lots of different vendors selling access points and cards there could be specific configuration instructions you'll need to follow. By and large do not expect much help from the staff at the location. They are waiters, waitresses or baristas, not tech support people. Hopefully they will at least be able to supply you with an instructional guide but don't count on it. If you are using a hotspot that offers free access you won't find any toll free tech support number to call (that's one reason why they are able to offer the access for free). You'll probably be on your own so it would help to familiarize yourself with the instructions for your wireless card beforehand or bring them with you. Some hints that should work in most locations - 1) Be sure to set your TCP/IP properties to "Obtain and IP address automatically" (DHCP). 2) Make sure your computer is not configured to automatically use a dial-up connection. 3) If requested, choose Infrastructure mode rather than ad-hoc mode. 4) Use the SSID name provided by the location or try choosing "any". 5) Turn encryption (WEP) off. 6) Make sure your battery is fully charged. Most hotspots will not have many wall plugs available for use by customers.
What can I do at a Wi-Fi-FreeSpot?
The Wi-Fi wireless broadband connection allows you to do anything you'd do from home or the office. You can surf the Web, check your e-mail, connect to your Corporate network (be sure to use a secure VPN connection), make free Voice over IP phone calls, play online games, update your blog, and IM with your friends. If you just have a modem dial-up account at home you'll probably end up spending more time at the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot once you see how much faster it is. Who knows, maybe you'll give up your dial-up account and just use the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot when you want to go online.(Your ability to send e-mail from a Wi-Fi-FreeSpot is somewhat dependent on the policy of your local Internet Service Provider(ISP) that provides your home/office internet and e-mail access - some ISPs restrict the ability to send email when not connected to the Internet directly through them. If you have a problem ask the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot location owner for their SMTP server info, or consider a web based e-mail account for use at a Wi-Fi- FreeSpot.)
Is my data and e-mail secure at a Wi-Fi-FreeSpot?
You should never conduct unsecured transactions that include any account or password information over public hotspots using FTP, email, or the Web. Try to use SSL for email (POP and SMTP), or read your email with a Web browser using an SSL connection. Ask your ISP if they offer SSL secure web-based email.
Glenn Fleishman, author of the book The Wireless Networking Starter Kit, sums it up thusly, " When data leaves your computer, if it's not on an encrypted link, anyone can read everything you send and receive."
Read How to Surf Safely at Public Hotspots for more tips.
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