08 Sep 2014

Is Public WiFi really FREE?

public wifi

The buzz in the world of WiFi at the moment is this: A large number of cities across the globe are already offering free Internet connections through free city WiFi technology. Even more are expected to soon follow suit.

The picture that comes to mind is that people will be roaming around with mobile devices that connect to the Internet through free city WiFi and, of course, unlimited browsing – everywhere.

WiFi Offering On-the-Go Internet

While traveling, almost everyone has the urge and necessity to check mails and share documents with others. Gone are the days when you could do this only while sitting at the desktop computer in your home.

This is an age of mobile devices and people usually have many of these with them, such as the laptops, smartphones and others. Almost all of these are WiFi friendly. So, all they need to do is connect to an Internet service provider through the WiFi.

With cities offering these services, Internet can now be available anywhere you wish. So, on-road WiFi is also becoming a reality with every passing day.

Something for Nothing – Is It Possible?

Do you really believe that there’s something for free? There’s no such thing as a free lunch or even a free WiFi.

The government will have to spend a lot to set up infrastructures across entire cities. It is expected that the sum may add up to millions, if not billions.

How Does City WiFi Work?

WiFi is offered through unlicensed broadcast spectrum or even sometimes through airwaves. A series of antennas need to be installed, which ensure that you will have access to high-speed Internet. These antennas are usually put on top of telephone poles and similar other places. The location of the antennas need to be selected prudently. Depending on the position where it has been installed, an antenna can offer Internet across a coverage area of about 1,000 feet in radius.

Setting up City WiFi is Costly

According to Doug Schremp:

“Setting up a citywide network is definitely not as easy as putting up access points all over the place. There are some technical issues that need to be addressed, and cities really need to look at the operational and business issues that come with building and owning their own network.”

So, it clearly indicates that the government has to spend a lot of money to ensure that all the inhabitants of the city are able to access free Internet anywhere they wish inside the boundaries of the city.

Increase in Taxes

You can’t expect the government to spend all that money without any expectation of getting something in return. There will surely be a steep rise in different types of taxes. So in the end, it really won’t be free.

Lack of Security is a Concern

One of the major disadvantages of public WiFi lies in its inability to offer proper security to the users. The people who are in charge of offering free WiFi to the inhabitants of a city are able to see each and every website that you surf or each and every click that you make on the Internet.

So, the privacy of the users is usually not there with free WiFi offered by the municipalities of different cities.

Here’s how you can protect your information when using Wi-Fi:

  • When using a hotspot, log in or send personal information only to websites you know are fully encrypted. To be secure, your entire visit to each site should be encrypted – from the time you log in to the site until you log out. If you think you’re logged in to an encrypted site but find yourself on an unencrypted page, log out right away.
  • Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts. When you’ve finished using an account, log out.
  • Do not use the same password on different websites. It could give someone who gains access to one of your accounts access to many of your accounts.
  • Many web browsers alert users who try to visit fraudulent websites or download malicious programs. Pay attention to these warnings, and keep your browser and security software up-to-date.
  • Consider changing the settings on your mobile device so that it doesn’t automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi. That way, you have more control over when and how your device uses public Wi-Fi.

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