Yesterday I had lunch at our local McAlister’s Deli in Edmond, Oklahoma. This was the first retail outlet I’ve seen which has such a high tech wifi authentication scheme. Patrons enter their receipt number and purchase total to gain access to the free wifi network. This makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if this connectivity “lease” also timed out after a period of time. From an accountability standpoint, it’s worth noting this login scheme also would permit IT gurus to connect a device’s digital footprints (while connected to the local network) to an identity if the person paid for their meal with a credit or debit card. Wow. Many of our schools need to provide wifi access to students and parents, but do so in a moderated and accountable way. We could probably learn a lot from retail outlets like this.

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5 Responses to Pay to Play WiFi

  1. John says:

    Curious was to what you mean by edcuation could learn a lot from this example. Can you elaboarte?

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    John: Where they exist, some of our public wifi networks in schools do not require any time of authentication, and therefore do not provide a mechanism for accountability. I am an advocate for balanced content filtering in schools, as well as accountability. Network users of all ages should understand that the places they go and the things they do online are accountable and attributable to THEM.

    I think a system similar to this one at McAlister’s in schools could provide at least an incremental improvement over anonymous wifi access in which users might perceive themselves as anonymous and therefore not accountable/responsible for their actions.

    Of course there are always ways to bypass this using proxies, but I think this is a good idea for schools wanting to promote a culture of online as well as face-to-face accountability.

    Thanks for the question. Does that help?

  3. Phil Adams says:

    Thanks for the writeup! I’m the developer of the system you talk about here.
    It’s nice to come upon people who ‘get it’. Accountability… Moderation…
    I have worked in IT for many years creating software for large corps and lots of banks. there it is all about accountability. There’s a record for everything.

    You mentioned a ‘lease’ time. Yes, there is a timeout of 2 hours. If you want more, then you have to buy more. This store is in business to make a profit, not be someone’s makeshift office. There is also a very effective filtering process built-in that makes the system family friendly. Proxies…. yup… there is always that little bugger hangin’ around. however, like you state, by creating an accountable system, there is at least a notion of responsibility. There is a tracking mechanism built in as well.
    But, all in all, it comes down to personal responsibility and what we used to call: honor. Each of us has to choose the type of person that we will be, every single day, every single moment. I’m an educator in my own right… some just call me: Dad.
    Thank You Wes !!!!!

  4. John says:

    Thanks for the follow up it now makes sense as to what you are trying to say and I agree with what you are trying to do. One thought I had was that this could be a way of extending Wi-Fi to parents of students. One of the issues I run into is parents who only have access to the net at work or at the library or maybe a community center. I think that this sort of system would enable districts to share their network with families for a short period of time either before or after school or during breaks. This way bandwidth isn’t taken up during the day when students, teachers, admins, etc. are trying to use it. It could also be a way for students to “stay after school” and get some net time for asignments etc. but not use it for gaming because of the limited time alotment. Very interesting and enjoying the pod casts.

  5. Wesley Fryer says:

    John: US schools receiving Erate funds are prohibited from providing home Internet access, so I’m not sure it’s workable under our current legal guidelines to provide that.

    Glad the clarifications helped, thanks for the feedback!

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