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How To Do Free WiFi Right

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Notable about all the places that offer free WiFi in London is a requirement to accept the terms and conditions – and, in almost all cases, a requirement to register (excepting Starbucks). The registration of these services is rarely checked – I regularly surf the web as “[email protected]” – and is mostly useless (I’ve never had any communication from any companies as a result of using their free WiFi); but I do understand the legal need to get a user to accept terms and conditions to cover the places that offer free WiFi from a legal perspective. But it’s clearly not required every time you connect.

These t&c interstitials cause problems for many devices too. If you’ve ever used a Starbucks (NSDQ: SBUX) WiFi connection, your iPhone or Android device will automatically connect to “BT (NYSE: BT) Openzone – Starbucks” whenever you walk near a Starbucks outlet – and then become entirely connectionless: since any request that’s going on from the phone will be rediverted to the login page until you get the phone out of your pocket, load the browser up, and click the big green button on the BT Openzone page that says “Connect”.

Further – this can’t go on. These repeated requests from devices in everyones’ pockets are now actually causing a fair amount of load on the registration servers; often, it’s difficult to get to the page that contains the t&cs, but once you’ve done that, the WiFi speeds by. And this problem will only get worse.

So, who’s the only company in the UK that are doing free WiFi right?


Why are Tesco offering free WiFi? Potentially, to enable price comparison checks; or to let me listen to streaming radio, or podcasts, while I slowly amble around the store. And it probably doesn’t cost them anything, since they presumably already need WiFi for their stock-checking or home grocery pickers.

So, pop into your local Tesco Extra store (that’s the big ones) and you’ll spot the Tesco free WiFi in there. Connect to it, and it asks for your Clubcard number as a method of authentication – it’s a free service to Clubcard users only – and accepting the terms and conditions. And then you’re connected… forever.

Tesco store the MAC address of your WiFi device against your personal details. They know who you are from your Clubcard account; and they know you’ve accepted the t&c for the free WiFi. So, the next time you go into Tesco, your device will automatically connect to the free WiFi and connect to the proper internet without requiring you to agree the t&cs again. Perfect.

That is how to do free WiFi. Whether you’re Starbucks, The Cloud, Paragon, or any of the other free WiFi providers – please do take note.

Or, better, remove the t&cs entirely.

This article originally appeared in Media UK.

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