Sunday, February 17, 2013

Motel Guest WiFi - Benefits and Threats!

Wireless internet still seems to be the main must-have service that guests consistently ask about before they check-in. For many travellers, after a hard day's journey, the most burning desire after they find a bed for the night is to hook into the WWW to checkout the latest digital happenings or share with the world their latest pithy status on Facebook.

For moteliers, it's easy to mock the irony of  intrepid travellers shuttering themselves in their guest rooms for seemingly hours on end gazing at glowing screens, however the reality is that travel experiences (business or leisure) are often measured by the quality and availability of a wireless internet connection. TripAdvisor is littered with disgruntled comments from guests that can't get instant wireless internet satisfaction from their accommodation provider.

I'm in the process of evaluating a new wireless internet system that has been developed for motels and other businesses that provide a wireless internet service to their customers.

This is the third system that I've used in our motels and so far it looks like it has potential to provide my guests with improvements in all that you can ask for in a motel commercial system including: stability, guest intuitiveness, speed and security along with a few extra added value features...(more of that later).

For moteliers, a general rule of thumb for providing a guest wireless internet system is that it shouldn't be set up by a well-meaning family member with equipment purchased from the local Dick Smith store.

Providing equipment and software for a publicly accessible internet system is a specialised field and Moteliers should be out-sourcing this vital service to a professional company that has developed a robust and specific solution.

Along with the obvious benefits of providing a wireless internet service, moteliers should be aware of some threats.

Our small but perfectly formed digital-friend Patrick Vallely, the Director of Skagerrak Software has kindly allowed us to reproduce his recently published pertinent ponderings along with some interesting links:
"Guest expectations are always rising. Rooms are expected to compete with homes in comfort and features, like flat panel TV’s, multiple Sky Channels, home cinema etc. It’s an expensive arms race.

Internet access for your guests is no long an extra, it’s now as obligatory as running water. Business travellers and families need the Internet. Laptops, iPads, iPhones and portable games all devour your supply of data from your ISP.

The Good

Free Internet signs abound at hotels, motels and holiday parks but free allowances differ, Internet provision can be an asset and a liability.

A generous free allowance will encourage the use of your system, charging reasonably after that will then allow you to create a revenue stream.

Think of it as a open bar with a two free drink maximum. Attract your consumers and then charge afterwards.

The Bad

In September 2011 the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act came into force. This stated that among other things, you are responsible for any infringing files that your guests download on your Internet account. eg If the guy in Unit 13 downloads a Rihanna song of only 5Mb (very small) in size, which will probably take 1-2 minutes, in the eyes of the law you are responsible and can be taken to task accordingly. 

The Downright Ugly

The copyright Infringement law allows for three strikes or three written warnings and this will be followed by a day in court.

What happens is:

• A download is detected by a music company monitoring system
• They send a standard letter to your Internet provider, eg Telecom Xtra
• Xtra sends you a letter telling you you have been detected and put you on 28 day notice (the letter tells you what song was downloaded and what date and time)

The first court cases were brought by music companies in NZ in October 2012.

What can you do?

As you can see, a tiny 5Mb song can get you into trouble, so “small” allowances offer no protection and only annoy your guests.

Some systems offer data logging as the solution. It’s nice to have, but this won’t help, as you are still the account holder and therefore responsible. The ability to identify the guilty party, your guest is immaterial in the eyes of the law. It’s your account, therefore, your responsibility.

The law may be unfair, but it’s worth investigating a system that will protect you. A few guest Internet systems offer anti-piracy features that limit guest access to copyright infringing downloads, particularly those monitored by the cyber-specialists contracted by large music and movie companies.

So far only music companies are chasing copyright infringements, the movie studios will be next.

This will get worse, not better, something to consider when upgrading or replacing your guest Internet system. 

You’ll find good information at the following links:

TrafficMate - Guest Internet System
Netsafe - Aimed at school but still very relevant
Vodafone NZ - Copyright page
The actual legislation on the NZ Government site"

Patrick Vallely is the Director of Skagerrak Software.
Skagerrak produces front desk software called MotelMate and the popular guest internet system TrafficMate.

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