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How to Ensure Fair Use of your In-Store Wi-Fi

How to Ensure Fair Use of your In-Store Wi-Fi

Many businesses now offer their customers Wi-Fi as an added perk. Hotels, coffee shops, banks, shopping malls – you name it. Offering guest Wi-Fi can be a great way to improve your customer experience and boost sales by encouraging customers to stay in your location just a little longer.

For the most part, offering in-store Wi-Fi achieves these business goals well. Most customers will use your Wi-Fi in sporadic bursts, whether it is to check their email, read some news – or even better – to visit your website for special offers or to sign up to your loyalty program.

But there will always be those few people who will abuse your Wi-Fi service. These Wi-Fi abusers can lead to poor customer experience for legitimate Wi-Fi users, and possibly higher bandwidth costs for your business.

In this article:

Risks of allowing unrestricted Wi-Fi use

Any business that offers their customers Wi-Fi service should have an end-user usage policy. Failing to place any type of controls or limits on your in-store Wi-Fi use means that some users will connect to your Wi-Fi service and:

  • Remain there for hours, reducing table turnover – especially problematic during times like COVID when in-store capacity is restricted.

  • Download huge amounts of data, increasing bandwidth costs – particularly in rural areas.

  • Stay logged on your network for lengthy periods of time – sometimes for days, weeks or even months if they live or work close by – impacting your customer experience with reduced Wi-Fi performance.

  • Simply take advantage of your free Wi-Fi, with zero intention of purchasing any of your products or services

In some cases, businesses are not even aware that the abuse is taking place, such as when the upstairs neighbor is using your free service as their own. Even when businesses can detect abuse in real time, it can leave them in a sticky situation. Should a staff member approach the Wi-Fi abuser and ask them to log off? Should they insist the user leave the establishment altogether? Is this kind of task even part of the employee’s training or job description? Could it create an awkward or unpleasant situation for other customers?

 

Tools for ensuring fair use of your guest Wi-Fi

One simple way around Wi-Fi abuse is to simply set universal session controls on bandwidth, data or session time. But this type of one-size-fits-all approach will not work for all businesses – or their legitimate customers.

To help businesses address Wi-Fi abuse while keeping their valuable customers happy, Datavalet has developed a dynamic session and access control feature that sits on top of their guest Wi-Fi network: Fair Use Management.

Integrating this session and access control feature into your guest Wi-Fi network allows you to maximize the benefits of offering customers great Wi-Fi while minimizing the risks and headaches associated with Wi-Fi abuse.

Unlike traditional static session controls that have hard limits on bandwidth, data or sessions applied globally for everyone, the Fair Use Management feature lets you provide unrestricted access to the internet by ensuring that everyone is making “fair use” of your Wi-Fi service. If they don’t, the feature automatically identifies those abusers and deals with them in an individual manner without having to involve your floor staff.

Essentially, you get the best of both worlds: Unrestricted access for legitimate Wi-Fi users and reasonable access/sessions controls for those who might abuse your service.

 

How Datavalet’s Fair Use Management feature works

Fair Use Management is a session and access control feature that runs as an add-on to Datavalet’s Guest Wi-Fi platform.

The feature essentially does two things:

  1. It automatically analyzes the behavior of all devices that connect to your Wi-Fi network for:

    • Data usage: Amount of data consumed over time.
    • Number of visits: Number of times the device uses the service.

    • Session duration: How long the device remains active on the network. 

  1. Datavalet's Wi-Fi Fair Use Management chart

    It then runs algorithms based on your established thresholds for the above three usage criteria to identify potential abusers. When it does, the feature dynamically determines the appropriate actions to be triggered – such as “flagging” a device for not complying with your fair use policy.

How an identified abuser is handled by the dynamic control feature will depend on your configuration, which can be adapted to your business needs. For example, you can set it to:

  • Simply notify abusive users that they are exceeding acceptable usage limits.

  • Slow down their Wi-Fi speed to maintain a positive experience for other customers.

  • Block their Wi-Fi access completely – either temporarily or permanently – again, depending on your configuration. If you want to block access only temporarily, you can allow the user to log back into your Wi-Fi once the algorithms establish that the device’s usage has returned to the acceptable parameters.

The system is flexible enough to offer you choices for managing these scenarios.

Each action can also be accompanied with a message sent to the user’s device via the captive portal (connect page), explaining why this action is taking place. This prevents users from having to bother floor staff about their sudden change in Wi-Fi service.

 

Actions that can be performed with Fair Use Management

 

Fair-Use Management process

1. Monitor

The first option is to only monitor and take no tangible action. The system simply logs the information for your review, providing a clearer picture of how your Wi-Fi network is being used.

2. Notify

Datavalet Wi-Fi mobile notificationThe next step is to deliver a message to the user’s device via the captive portal (connect page) when they attempt to use the service. At this level, the user can still access your Wi-Fi, but they are notified that their usage is exceeding acceptable thresholds – and that this excessive use is not going unnoticed.

Not all Wi-Fi abuse is intentional. Datavalet’s Fair Use Management feature accounts for this by letting you configure any number of messages ranging from gentle reminders to stern warnings. After all, in most cases you will simply want to prevent unwanted behavior, rather than block the user entirely. The look and feel of the warning page can be customized and fully branded as part of your overall captive portal experience.

When a warning message is delivered, the user also receives a toll-free phone number they can call if they have any questions. A Datavalet helpdesk technician will provide further context. No need to get your staff involved at any point. They can remain focused on their core tasks.

3. Throttle

Another course of action you can choose to take is to simply reduce how much data the user’s device can consume over time. This limit can be placed on the device itself or just on certain applications such as video streaming. This allows you to lighten your bandwidth load without completely shutting the user out of your Wi-Fi network.

The throttle will remain in place until the abuser’s metrics fall back in line with desired usage, at which point, the throttle will be automatically lifted.

4. Temporary Ban

You can also set the system to temporarily ban any abusive devices – either immediately or after going through any of the previous stages. The ban will remain in place for as long as the user’s metrics are in breach of your fair use policy. This ban will be automatically lifted once sufficient time has elapsed and the device’s historical usage metrics have normalized.

You can also set how many times a device is temporarily banned before it is permanently banned.

5. Permanent Ban

You can also choose to permanently ban a device to prevent it from ever using the service again. If you decide to lift a permanent ban at some later point, this can be easily done by the Datavalet team. You simply let us know.

 6. Scope of ban

If you have multiple locations offering Datavalet’s Managed Wi-Fi service, you can also decide if the ban applies to only one location or across all your locations.

 

How to configure & set up Fair Use Management

Fair Use Management is a turnkey service, with Datavalet taking care of all the background configuration according to your desired behavior.

All you have to do is call us. One of our experts will help:

  • Set limits to ensure “fair use” of your Wi-Fi.

  • Determine the right course of action for handling Wi-Fi abusers.

The Datavalet team will then provide you with a preview of how these set rules will affect your customers’ Wi-Fi experience based on their actual usage patterns – eliminating any guesswork in the process.

Once everything looks just right, we can then flip the switch and activate Fair Use Management on your Wi-Fi service. Now you can rest easy knowing that your legitimate users will enjoy a great Wi-Fi experience that’s worthy of your brand, all while keeping your network secure and your bandwidth costs under control.

 

Businesses that can benefit from Fair Use Management

Any business that offers their customers Wi-Fi service can benefit from a set of dynamic and flexible access and session controls. That said, this type of system is especially useful for:

  • Businesses near residential locations where people might be tempted to use your Wi-Fi service instead of paying for their own home Internet service.

  • Businesses whose customers may be incentivized by the Wi-Fi service to loiter (think coffee shops, etc.), thereby limiting available indoor or outdoor seating for paying customers.

  • Businesses that struggle to offer a standardized Wi-Fi experience for customers across all locations due to limited bandwidth in certain regions/areas.

 See how easy it can be. Talk to our team.

 

About Datavalet

Since 1998, Datavalet has designed, deployed and managed Wi-Fi networks for some of the world’s biggest brands, including restaurant chains, banks, airports, and more. Our full range of managed Wi-Fi solutions and services allow businesses to get the most from their Wi-Fi network without straining their internal IT resources. Datavalet.com