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Managed WiFi Solutions for MDU / MTU, Hotel, Assisted Living, & Restaurants

World Wi-Fi Day To Highlight Wireless Connectivity For Everyone As A Necessary Utility

The Wireless Broadband Alliance announced on January 14 there will be a “World Wi-Fi Day” on June 20, 2016, “an initiative that will accelerate affordable wireless connectivity around the world”.  This event will focus on the division between connected and unconnected societies and focus on the opportunities for societal advancement that wireless connectivity offers.

The goal of World Wi-Fi Day is ultimately to figure out a way to provide connectivity to everyone, everywhere.  Lack of connectivity is not only isolated to developing countries (where billions of people lack any connectivity) but is an issue in developed countries like the U.S.  Low income housing and urban areas contain hundreds of thousands of people who are still unconnected and even more do not have access to sufficient connectivity.  This lack of connectivity contributes significantly to decreased opportunity for certain populations.  World Wi-Fi Day is a call to action to get connectivity to these people and the Wireless Broadband Alliance is encouraging governments, operators, service providers, vendors and Internet giants everywhere to participate in this effort.

Spot On Networks is extremely proud to be at the forefront of building wireless networks that are geared towards providing secure and reliable wireless connectivity to the largest urban low income housing developments in the United States.  We fully believe that everyone should have access to secure, reliable and fast wireless connectivity.  Property owners, developers and governments now recognize the importance of providing wireless access to residents of their communities.   Wi-Fi, which used to be viewed as a nice-to-have amenity for urban residential properties, has become a necessary utility.

In addition to raising awareness, World WiFi Day will “celebrate the significant role Wi-Fi is playing in getting cities and communities around the world connected”.  With the proliferation of wireless devices and our dependence on Wi-Fi for Internet access, voice, streaming, security, home automation, social interaction – the digital divide continues to increase.  The good news is Wi-Fi has the ability to offer widespread, secure connectivity and with proper network management, it is possible to get people in urban areas connected the way the need to be in order to be competitive in an increasingly wireless world.

Next-Gen CCRCs Will Rely Heavily On Wireless Technologies and Community-Wide Connectivity

A mere five years ago, the idea that senior living communities would need to have a well thought-out wireless plan to support new technologies was hard to wrap one’s head around.  Sure, the high-tech senior was an interesting topic, but the need to seriously invest in supporting tech for seniors was certainly not a priority or necessity.

Times have changed.  Today’s Wall Street Journal article, written by Dr. Joseph Coughlin of MIT’s Age Lab, “How Technology Will Transform Retirement”,deemed that support for the Internet of Things for senior living services will, “become so convenient, and so vital to our care and well-being, that they will be a significant and necessary cost”.  The next generation of seniors to enter into retirement and CCRCs will be tech savvy and tech dependent with a focus on mobile connectivity and IoT.

The number of Americans living in senior care facilities is expected to double by 2030. With the tech dependent Boomer generation comes 70% of U.S. financial assets.  Put them together and you have a generation that uses technology and has the money to pay for upscale retirement facilities.

Staying connected to friends and family is arguably the most important benefit that seniors receive from technology.  Visual calling applications like FaceTime and Skype, social media and easy picture sharing applications like DropBox all help seniors to keep in-touch, not just verbally, but visually.  WSJ mentionsConnected Living, Inc., an online community that keeps senior living residents and their families connected.  More futuristic technologies, like eyeglasses that show reminders of who someone is and your last conversation with them, may not be so far off when you think of Google Glass.

Seniors are living longer, so living “better” and taking control over one’s own health and wellness as well as increasing communication between seniors and their health care providers is another big benefit.  Vitals monitoring, diet & exercise monitoring, medication dispensing, virtual consultations with doctors and appointment reminders are just a few of the services that are available to seniors.

Finally, “connected homes and communities” with futuristic IoT solutions are not just for millennials, they can improve quality of life and maintain independence for seniors.

In a multi-residential CCRC setting, intelligently architected wireless networks will be necessary to support the proliferation of wireless devices that will be descending on senior communities with the Boomer generation.  Investment in a wireless plan will increase the value and appeal of any senior living community as well as save senior living providers money in the long term.

FCC Continues To Lay The Smack-Down On Hotels That Block Personal WiFi HotSpots –Debates Ensue Over WiFi and Your Rights

fcc

The FCC has fined hotel giant, Hilton, and Baltimore Convention Center’s WiFi Provider, MC Dean for being in violation of the law for blocking personal hotspot signals while inside their facilities.  These two companies now join Marriott, who in January of this year was fined $600,000 for the same.  Hilton faced a small penalty of $25,000 for violations that occurred at their Anaheim, CA hotel, whereas wireless provider, MC Dean is facing a proposed fine upwards of $700,000 for admitting to using powerful technology that blocked connections both inside and outside of the Baltimore Convention Center.  MC Dean then charged as much as $1,095 to use their wireless services for events.

The FCC has been both a big advocate of protecting unlicensed spectrum and the rights of the public to have access to WiFi, however they were not all in agreement on this one, the FCC action was approved with a 3-2 vote.  Part of a dissenting opinion from FCC Commissioner Agit Pai:

“In the end, this decision is the latest evidence that the FCC’s enforcement process has gone off the rails.”

One WLAN manager recently put the necessity for FCC enforcement into perspective: “The only thing I can think of is that the people who are ‘confused’ don’t understand that if THEY have the right to jam my Wi-Fi devices, then conversely, I have the right to jam THEIR Wi-Fi devices.  Does anyone really believe that open warfare is the way to proceed?”

The law seems pretty black and white, right?

FCC Section 333: it is “patently unlawful for any company to maliciously block FCC-approved WiFi connections”.

So why, other than the obvious added revenue stream, would a hotel or convention center want to block their guests’ personal hot spots?  Part of the answer is so that the hotel or convention center can preserve the quality of its wireless network.  To put it simply: too many access points trying to operate on the same channels can cause a dramatic decrease in the quality of the service.  This is exactly why a property-wide WiFi network is necessary in a multifamily space: too many personal routers = interference and poor quality for residents.  It is also why intelligent WiFi network architecture is of such importance in a multifamily/ multitenant space.  A WiFi network designed right will have the ability to monitor, adjust and mitigate channel interference remotely and the network would be architected to minimize interference caused by too many access points (Spot On’s patent-pending network architecture does this).

The second “argument” being made by hotel owners is that customers are vulnerable to hacking and identity theft when they don’t control all network usage.  That one is a little odd.  If the hotel is using a truly secure network backed by client isolation technology, like Spot On’s UserSafe™ technology, users on the network are invisible to hackers.  As for those using personal hotspots in the hotel – they should be able to have the right to determine whether or not they feel safe using their connection – it should not be the hotel’s decision.

As for public opinion in the comments and blogs today, there are a few takeaways:

  • The public views WiFi as a free utility – one that is outside of “big-corporate” control
  • Many seem disgruntled by the tendency for higher end hotels to charge for WiFi and are gravitating to mid-tier chains to get their free WiFi and free breakfast
  • This is one area where public majority seems to really view a government entity as “For The People:
  • Not everyone thinks the same. While the majority of the public is cheering for the FCC ruling, a few have the opinion: “If you don’t like it as a consumer, go somewhere else”.  One commenter on Engadget: “It is their property that you are on – if they block your hotspot then don’t go there again and go to a chain that does.”

To read the FCC commission document, click here.

Millennial Cord Cutting A Scary Reality for Cable MVPDs

Millennial Cord Cutting A Scary Reality for Cable MVPDs

cord-cutting

Image Credit: Pacific Crest

A grim reality has set in for MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) a.k.a. the Cable Companies, with the release of new numbers from Wall Street data firm, Pacific Crest.  The data is staggering, with some reporters referring to a “cord-cutting apocalypse”.   The new numbers show a reduction in cable subscriptions that over tripled from Q2 of last year.  Subscriptions fell 141,000 in Q2 of 2014 and then took a nose dive in Q2 of this year with a loss of 463,000 subscriptions.  This is no fluke, either.

Clearly the trend, especially among millennials, has been to forgo an expensive cable subscription for application subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.  In addition, TV shows being produced and released by companies like Netflix are seeing large success and drawing big name actors.

In 2009 the number of U.S. households with cable subscriptions peaked with almost 90% of households having a subscription with a Top 8 Cable provider.  As of Q2 of 2015 that number has dropped to around 76%.  In response to the dropping numbers, Cable companies scrambled to offer “skinny bundles” that allowed a bit more control over the channels being purchased and a reduction in bundle prices.  These offerings (i.e. Sling TV) have seen little little interest, which companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are seeing subscription growth between 20 – 45%.

Millennials believe in having control over content that they specify and having access to it all of the time and while they are willing to spend and spend big on technology, they are frugal and savvy when it comes to contracts and having to pay for what they don’t use.    The trend towards cord-cutting is very black and white and building owners are becoming aware of resident preference for property-wide wireless access to support cord-cutting service, voice calling and of course, provide internet access.

Is your hotel losing by charging for WiFi?

monitoringFor years WiFi has consistently been named as the most requested hotel amenity by travelers and a huge determinant in where guests book and how they rate their stay at a hotel.  But what about the cost of charging for WiFi? Hotelier.com’s recent article: The High Cost of Charging for WiFi, concludes that hotels simply cannot afford to charge for WiFi or offer tiered service where free means “slow and unreliable”.

In 2015, as the article points out, today’s travelers rely on WiFi as a basic service that allows them to keep in touch with work, family and friends and this service is no longer an amenity but “as basic as bathrobes and body wash”.  In fact may hotels would probably benefit from forgoing soaps and shampoos and investing in some high quality WiFi.  A recent IHG poll of 10,000 business travelers had 60% of the respondents calling out FREE WiFi as the single most important feature of the room.

So what does all these mean for hotel owners?  Clearly  hotel owners struggle with the costs associated with providing free, high quality WiFi to guests.  This is a struggle that hotel owners can sympathize with, but as Kristine Rose,  VP of brands for Hyatt pointed out, “Internet connectivity is no longer an amenity.  It has become an integral part of travelers’ daily lives and a basic expectation.  Travelers shouldn’t have to remember which brands or locations offer it for free or the strings attached to get it”.  Hyatt was the first non-luxury major brand to offer free WiFi to it’s guests and the brand sees the decision as an absolutely necessary one.

While one major traveler concern is that the WiFi be free – the other major concern is that the WiFi be fast and reliable.  For hotels that advertise free WiFi but provide a slow, unreliable service, the negative impact on guests can be just as great as not offering it at all.  In fact, many guests simply will not return to a hotel after a bad WiFi experience.  High quality, managed WiFi is a must and hotel owners need to look to proven WiFi brands, like Spot On Networks, to ensure that 1) the guest experience is a positive one and 2) that network issues that do occur are handled quickly and do not interfere with hotel operations.

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