How community Wi-Fi can get a Developer or a Board in trouble.

The Legal Obligations of Communities Offering Wi-Fi

When an Internet Service Provider (ISP [Century Link, Cox, etc.]) delivers the Web connection to your community, the community becomes legally obligated to abide by and enforce the terms of use. Consequently, AAM has observed a rise in issues connected with community residents using the Wi-Fi connection to illegally download and share music, movies and illicit content. We have even seen situations where the homeowners in the community were not the ones abusing the service, but rather outsiders who happened to find an open Wi-Fi network.

The Risks of Wi-Fi User Abuse

Abuse of this nature generally results in the ISP sending a cease and desist letter, with repercussions including discontinued service, remediation demands on behalf of content providers or even police involvement in the case of more serious crimes. The challenge for most communities is the networking equipment. The most common error communities make is using equipment that is primarily designed for home use, which lacks the security features necessary to protect the community from misuse.

AAM's Plan to Reduce Negative Exposure

AAM recognizes the popularity and implementation of community center Wi-Fi and has developed a plan to reduce the negative exposure that our developers and Homeowner Boards might face while providing this service. To find the ideal solution, AAM identified the following necessary to protect our communities and provide the best experience for all users:

  • Requiring users to accept terms of use (similar to an airport’s terms of use for their Wi-Fi).
  • Identifying people abusing the system and providing authorities with reports to identify the specific device performing the mistreatment.
  • Capping the amount of bandwidth a user can consume.
  • Establishing Separate Public Wi-Fi from Office Wi-Fi to ensure that community business is never affected by people abusing the Public Wi-Fi.
  • Blocking a specific device from being able to connect, even if they have the password.
  • Performing web filtering to block access to illicit websites or block illicit activity such as file sharing.
  • Segmenting traffic to protect the Association’s computers and data from hacking.
  • Having multiple ISP’s and failover between them to ensure uptime.
  • Quickly and easily replacing a failed piece of equipment.

To meet these requirements, AAM conducted an extensive evaluation of the various solutions currently on the market. Based on our research, we have found that Cisco’s Meraki product line provides the most robust solution for protecting our communities against the negative effects of Wi-Fi user abuse.

Proper implementation of the Meraki system in our communities requires expertise. AAM has invested internally to train our staff to become proficient in the installation and configuration of these solutions. As a result, AAM has become an officially recognized Cisco Meraki partner and has conducted several successful implementations at a number of our communities.

In conclusion, providing Wi-Fi is a valuable amenity for communities, but it comes with potential risks. AAM's plan to reduce negative exposure while providing the best experience for all users is crucial in today's digital age. With proper safeguards and enterprise-level equipment, communities can ensure that their Wi-Fi networks are secure and provide a positive experience for all.

If you live in an HOA with Wi-Fi and want to ensure that your community is protected against the negative effects of user abuse, we encourage you to contact the AAM IT team to discuss our services and solutions. Our team of experts can help implement the necessary safeguards and equipment to ensure a positive experience for all users. Contact us today to learn more.