Providing Free Wifi? You May Be Breaking The Law

Providing Free Wifi? You May Be Breaking The Law

You Need To Ask Yourself “Am I an ISP?

If you provide free WiFi as part of your business – for instance, if you run a café or a hotel, then the answer to “am I an ISP?” is probably – and surprisingly – “yes”.

So, Are You an ISP?

You are an ISP if you provide access to the Internet as part of your business – in any way, shape or form.  This includes free Wifi.


An ISP is an Internet Service Provider – somebody who provides Internet services.  Whilst you might well associate ISPs with the big players who are always trying to get you to switch your broadband to them, just think about the phrase for a second:


Internet Service Provider


In other words, anybody who provides Internet service (aka “internet access”) – which includes free WiFi – is arguably an ISP.


Why is this important?  It’s important because of a new Law that will come into force in April – the Digital Economy Act.  And if you don’t take steps to protect yourself, it could cost you a fortune.

What Is The Digital Economy Act?

The Digital Economy Act is a massive shake up of the Law as it applies to the Internet, and you’ve probably read mentions of it in the newspapers – with the headlines talking about how ISPs are going to have to block adult content, and a whole lot of stuff about “age verification” and “guaranteed fast broadband” and “making the Internet safe for children”.  On the face of it, there’s not a lot about the Digital Economy Act that you could say was a bad idea.


But when you realise that, come April, an awful lot of people will be breaking the Law without realising it – and you understand that there will be “financial penalties” (aka spot fines) for doing so – then you might be less thrilled about its provisions.


Especially if it’s you who is going to be hit with the fines.

You Just Run a Café.  How Does The Digital Economy Act Affect You?

The Digital Economy Act affects you if you provide free WiFi to your customers.  By doing so, you are providing “Internet services” – so you are now, in the eyes of those wonderful people who hand out the spot fines, an “Internet Service Provider”.  Once they’ve decided that you’re an ISP, they will check to make sure that you are complying with your new obligations – such as blocking adult content and preventing piracy.


You probably never gave much thought to it – you’re too busy steaming up the milk for the next latté – and you’ve never had to worry about it until now, but now you have to care about it – and now you have to care a great deal:


What do your customers actually do on the free Wifi you provide?


Most of your customers probably just do the usual stuff – Facebook, read the news, a bit of Google searching and catch up with emails.  All whilst enjoying your delicious coffee and putting money in your till.


But what if one of your customers is using your free WiFi to upload torrents of pirated music or films?  As an ISP, you are now liable.  And you’ll be fined.  Or if they are browsing – or even worse – uploading pornography?  As an ISP, you are now liable.  And you’ll be fined.


These fines are 5% of your turnover, or up to £250,000.  Even if they were “only” a spot fine of a few hundred pounds, it’s still going to wipe out much of this week’s hard-won profit.  If it didn’t put you out of business.


You might well think that this is far-fetched, but it was only two years ago that our security researchers rolled up a paedophile ring operating out of a free Wifi network, and had been doing so for some time.  The owners of the Wifi network – a busy café – had no clue.


Come April 2018, that Wifi provider would be fined £250,000.


You need to understand this.  As a provider of network services, even only free WiFi, you are responsible for what your customers do.  And you are responsible for what they can access.

How Can You Be Ready For The Digital Economy Act?

You can be ready by simply stopping providing free Wifi.  But, with free Wifi almost being a basic human right to customers, that will likely hurt your business.


You can also be ready by making sure that you have a robust, proven, content filtering solution in place to make sure that your WiFi can never be responsible for serving “inappropriate content”.

What Is Content Filtering?

Content filtering is putting something on your network that makes sure that the bad stuff stays out.  This will keep your profit in your pocket where it belongs and not have you handing it over to the man with the badge as “financial penalties” for “non-compliance”.


At SafetyNet, content filtering is what we do.  We are content filtering specialists and are making our expertise available to provide low-cost compliance for the Digital Economy Act.


For as little as £10 per month, we provide a hassle-free content-filtering solution and our security auditors will certify your network as being compliant with the provisions of the Digital Economy Act.  You can get on with running your business, and let us take care of the compliance.


No problem.  No hassle.  No fines.


Use SafetyNet.  Just set it, and forget it.


Don’t wait until April.  Don’t wait until you get fined.  Don’t be that guy.  Contact and get back to concentrating on the things that really matter.

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