As I write this, I am sitting at a table in my local library using their free wifi. I’ve been staring at a blank screen for the past 10 minutes trying to decide on a topic to write about today. As usual, when you try to hard, you get nothing. And then, when you just let go, an idea comes to you.
Usually, that idea is garbage. At least it tends to be for me. But that idea acts as a spring-board for other related ideas. And that’s how I came up with this list of do’s and don’ts of using free wifi. I started with making a list of places to get free wifi and my mind wandered to writing about things not to do when taking advantage of a free wifi network. And that sounded like a much more interesting post.
When using free Wifi, DO:
Make sure you actually have permission to use it
Just because there is an unsecured wifi connection, it doesn’t actually mean that you have permission to use it. This one is two-fold. It may be a private household that didn’t know how to secure their router, or did so incorrectly and thinks they are secured but aren’t. Or maybe a hacker figured out their wifi password and then disabled it.
The second unsecured wifi connection that you may not have permission to use is for local businesses. Many places make free wifi available for their customers. However, wireless connections don’t limit themselves to walls and it may be possible to connect from the parking lot or even another business in the same shopping center. That business is paying for that internet service from the money they make selling goods (usually food) to customers. If you aren’t buying something, then you aren’t a customer and don’t technically have permission.
Clean Up after yourself
Where ever you are sitting to use the free wifi service, make sure you pick up after yourself. If you had food, throw away the wrappers. If you were at the library and had books or other materials out, put them away. Leave the area at least as clean as you found it, so it is available for others when you are done.
Be considerate of other users
Another way to be considerate is to not take up more space than you need. The touchpad on my laptop is going, so I use an external keyboard and mouse. I use a fair amount of room, but I made sure that somebody could sit at the other side of the table if they wanted to. If I didn’t need external devices, I would have sat in one of the arm-chairs available around the stacks. Those chairs have little swivel desks built into them.
Thank the owner
Make sure the person/company providing the free internet access knows that you appreciate it. When they ask for customer feedback, don’t throw it away, but actually fill it out and mention the wifi. If nothing else, they know that it is a valuable service and won’t do away with it.
When using free Wifi, DON’T
True story: I know a woman who used to work at McDonalds. She said that there was one woman who would come in every Saturday, order a small coffee, and use the free internet for 3 hours. 99 cents is quite a good price for 3 hours of internet usage!
Last time I was at a McDonalds for the internet, there was a man at the next table who simply went in and started working on his laptop; he didn’t even buy anything!
Be a bandwidth hog
There are likely other people using the connection at the same time as you. Don’t use up all the bandwidth downloading large files or streaming HD movies.
Do anything illegal
Speaking of downloading large files; don’t download illegally. I’m not going to make this about real vs imagined harm from digital piracy, but somebody is doing you a favor by letting you use their internet connection for free. Don’t reward them with a subpoena because you didn’t want to pay $10 to see Les Miserables or got carried away with your dislike for the current administration.
Do you use free wifi services? Anything you would add to this list?