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Smartphone, Wireless, and Mobile Technologies Forum

Regulating access to a WiFi network

 10:47 am on Jul 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

We are getting ADSL in the near future--well, at least the telephony company says so--and one of the things we want to do once we get ADSL is to setup a WiFi network which guests can use to access the Internet to check for emails etc. This functionality will be used in a small scale guesthouse setup where we want to grant access to the paying guests as a kind of extra service, but don't want to have the neighbors hooking up and filling our bandwidth with all kind of unwanted Internet activity. Therefore some sort of access control is needed.

There are solutions around for large hotels with special WiFi routers etc, but that is too large scale and those solutions are often quite expensive. We are more talking about a few people per day who want to check their emails or book an air ticket. Are there open source or other solutions which would make it possible to grant and revoke WiFi access to our router and have some control on bandwidth usage?



 7:40 am on Aug 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Did you ever find a solution for this?


 8:11 am on Aug 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

erm, i've beeen to lots of small motels in america, they normally have what you are doing, they just give you the password when you check in - so i assume the wifi is set up to require a password, just with a simple router, i know they didn't have any specialist equipment because i helped out at one place with a problem on their pc, they literally had a standard off the shelf router wifi broadcasting to the guests.


 8:21 am on Aug 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thee is something i looked into a while back and the only small scale solution i found was an opensource firmware upgrade that works with most linksys routers,

I never actually tested it, but i might be worth looking into.



 8:45 am on Aug 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

A member informed me by sticky about the Linksys router firmware re-flash possibility. The flash is reprogrammed with a Linux image on top of which open source hotspot management software are installed. I am probably going that route. The only problem is that they haven't told us when the ADSL line will be delivered yet. If it isn't in the next two months, we will have to wait until April because they won't do any infrastructure work in winter time.


 10:20 pm on Aug 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Lammert - keep updating this if you make progress. I've been looking for the same thing for the same reasons - we have satellite internet which has serious bandwidth restrictions. If a guest were to try download Lord of the Rings, there would go our bandwidth for the month and FAP would throttle us down to 26Kbps.

So I've been keeping my eyes open for a solution that would let guests use the internet, but throttle bandwidth before the Wild Blue does it for us. There are routers that give some accounts priority access, and of course there are parental controls, but I'd like to just block all forms of audio and video, for example, and perhaps image up/download for images over 1MB.

I haven't seen anything that gets me there, but... one can hope.

If you don't care about throttling your guests' bandwidth, you could just give out a password, ask them not to share it, and change it every month or whenever you see a bandwidth spike. Or you could just run some cat5 cable in there and be done with it!


 10:47 pm on Aug 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

BTW, Linksys routers pretty much all have the ability to create a sort of firewalled network for guests.

What they don't have as pertains to my situation is the ability to block content by content type (rather than URL) for guests but not for me.


 11:37 pm on Aug 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

What they don't have as pertains to my situation is the ability to block content by content type (rather than URL) for guests but not for me.

What if you used 2 routers (DSL -> router 1 -> router 2)? Set more restrictions on router 2 (which guests connect to), while you connect to router 1. Router 1 doesn't need to be wireless (unless you want wireless for yourself).

Sort of overkill, but routers are pretty cheap.


 3:08 pm on Aug 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

As I was writing, I was wondering about that. I do want wireless myself, but that's easy enough.

Maybe it's just poor documentation on sales sites, but I am just note finding routers that block by content type (i.e. like MIME type) so that I can block anything that's streaming (video or audio) and anything video, and any file over #*$!.

Satellite internet sucks in general. We had a neighbor with an unsecured wireless network. Someone apparently leached on and downloaded a movie overnight b/c he woke up in the morning throttled to 12Kbps. Another friend took in a roomie with a YouTube habit. She could get decent speed for a day or two until said roomie got his YouTube thing going and then she would get throttled to sub-dialup for for 30 days.

That's why I'm paranoid about guests deciding to visit Netflix or getting a little buzzed and deciding to spend their evening watching YouTube.


 6:03 am on Aug 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

what about connecting through a proxy? have the content filtered there as opposed to at the router level.



 3:50 pm on Aug 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

two routers or use somthing like ddwrt (ill have a look at my ddwrt router this eve and see what that has out of the box)

and update this later on


 3:53 pm on Aug 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

Okay guys... you're going way beyond my plug and pray approach to networking.

>>what about connecting through a proxy?

But then I have to leave a proxy server on all the time, right? This is a place where I am about 33% and where most guests don't bring a laptop. Seems like a waste of energy to have a computer on all the time. In fact, even just running the router and modem all the time sees sort of wasteful.


Hmmm.... reference Linksys WRT54G is only $40. The Buffalo WHR-G125, which dd-wrt.com recommends as the cheapest 100% compatible router is only $80. I was thinking ddwrt routers would be pricey, but not so.

That said, their page on access restrictions says nothing about ability to filter by content type

I searched the site for "mime" hoping there might be some mime type filtering, but there didn't seem to be anything at all.

They recommend openDNS for more advanced content filtering, but I found nothing on searching for MIME and the solutions I'm seeing mostly seem to be oriented at blocking certain sites or types of sites.

Again, I don't care if people want to view "objectionable" content, just so long as it's low-bandwidth. I don't care if they're saving the world, I don't want them to stream video and use up my monthly allocation! I don't get charged for overages, but the way, I just get taken down to 26K (or maybe it's 12K, I can't remember) for 30 days.


 3:57 pm on Aug 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

BTW, I did find out that the Cisco 7200 router allows for MIME-Type filtering. It's only $9500 :-)

As far as I can see, a proxy server is the only cost-effective way to have MIME-Type filtering on a home network, and at that point that I need to have a computer running all the time to provide that, I think my guests just don't get internet access.

So far only 2 of the first 25 or so have even asked about it.


 4:10 pm on Aug 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

I use the HP ProCurve MultiService Controller for this kind of services.

You can for example create two virtual wifi networks, one private and public. There is also software where you can create tickets that are valid for a period of time. So you dont have an open wifi network.

I think you can have it all for around 2000 usd, depends how many acces point you want.


 6:02 pm on Aug 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi bhukkel, thanks for your input. The HP ProCurve option seems to be a good one, but at least for our setup the price will be too high. I am not sure about ergophobe's situation but we may be able to get maybe 10 dollars revenue per week from the Wifi hotspot due to the low number of users. It will therefore take years to reach a break-even point when the total setup costs a few thousand dollars.

Reflashing an existing router with open source software would take a little bit more work, but it will be easier to monetize.


 7:54 pm on Aug 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Based on our first season, guests would probably log in for not more than a couple hours per week. The vast majority of our guests are not travelling with laptops anyway. Only 2 out of 25 clients so far have even asked about getting on the network, and one only wanted 5 minutes online to check for an important email. Our clientele just occasionally needs to check email or check on reservations for their next stop.

So I would spend $100 or so to offer our guests the convenience, but not a lot more. If I were spending $2000+, most people would rather seem me put in a hot tub!


 8:11 pm on Aug 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Look into D-Link Public/Private Airspot routers.

You set them up to a little printer that gives out access based on time.

A client of mine uses one in his Truck Stop. All requests redirect the user to a login page on the router, they put in the credentials from the printed slip and they have an hour online.

I think you can find them in the $800-$900 range


 12:16 am on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

<off topic>
Lammert, for $10/week in revenue, why bother charging? It seems like there's more value at that point in offering it as a perk. We give our guests about $10 in welcome gifts and they love it. In our experience, you're better off charging $10 more and giving $10 more than in charging $10 less and then nickel and diming for the extras. Frankly, after a stay in Treasure Island in Vegas being nickeled and dimed for every single little thing, I hated the place. Comfy bed, sure, but if I so much as take one of their water bottles out of the fridge and put mine in to chill it, I get charged $8 for that bottle of water. Screw them!

I think the word of mouth you would get for offering "free" wi-fi (even if you charge a little more to be able to pay the bills) would be worth $10/week.
</off topic>


 3:55 am on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

We may well end up giving the service away for free to visitors eventually. Our main problem is that we are in an area which visitors regard as "cheap", and we therefore attract a relatively large number of people who travel around for longer periods on relatively low budgets. Increasing the overall price is therefore not an option and some of our visitors even sleep in their own tents in our garden to further lower their costs.

Despite the low daily budget, you would be surprised how many of them are carrying netbooks or other Wifi enabled devices--often to update their travel blog and store their digital pictures--and if we would offer unlimited Wifi access for free, abuse might take place. Bandwidth is a scarce resource here. We are now prepaying GB for our wireless connection and when we are on ADSL in the near future, once you reach the max GB limit, you are throttled to dial-up speed until the end of the month.

Some access and bandwidth control is therefore necessary. For us either a limitation in time, speed throttling per user IP, or max MB per user would be fine. My experience is that speed throttling is a good way to prevent people to watch video's online. With a little experimenting it is possible to find a kB/sec setting on which email reading still goes fast, while on-line video's are almost impossible to watch.


 1:18 am on Sep 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ah, so you have almost exactly our situation, except a larger and more budget clientele.

I've thought of speed throttling as well, but it needs to be bifurcated, because I want full speed, slow as it is!

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