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

 However, a downfall associated with providing this feature is that a lot of developers and Homeowner Boards fail to realize the potential risks for offering Wi-Fi without the proper safeguards and enterprise level equipment necessary to enable them.

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.

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 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, including:

  • 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.

AAM conducted an extensive evaluation of the various solutions currently on the market that have met these requirements, while also considering the cost-effectiveness for our communities and developers. Based on our research, Cisco’s Meraki product line provided the most robust solution for protecting our communities against the negative effects of Wi-Fi user abuse.

To properly implement the Meraki system in our communities, AAM has invested internally to train our staff to become proficient in the installation and configuration of these solutions. This has led to AAM becoming an officially recognized Cisco Meraki partner and conducting several successful applications at a number of our communities.