WiFi has become one of the most popular amenities requested by holiday rental guests – ahead of a dishwasher or cable TV. If you decide to offer internet access to your guests, add it to the list of amenities on your vacation rental website, but bear in mind that you are responsible for ensuring that users of your broadband stay within the law.
The basic rule is that online access needs to be able to be traced back to the user. Legalities vary from country to country though, and each owner has their own rules if they provide WiFi to their guests regarding how they ensure it’s not misused.
Read on to find out what some vacation rental professionals had to say on the topic:
1. WiFi is the most important vacation rental amenity
“In this age of tablets, our guests won’t even give a vacation rental a 2nd look if no WiFi is available.”
“It’s funny how fast things change. 8 years ago, WiFi wasn’t a make or break amenity for travelers in our area. Now I’d venture to say that it’s as important as air conditioning. I’m embarrassed to say that we put no rules or restrictions in our rental agreement for internet usage. Just how to access and troubleshoot it.”
“We own Thimbleberry Inn Bed and Breakfast on Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin and we have complimentary WiFi throughout our property. Guests can access it from sitting out on their own private loveseat also. We do not use passwords but we do tell them it is not a secure network. They love it! And yes, I also think it is a must to have nowadays. We have 100% occupancy from Memorial Day through Oct. 15th – and I think that is one of the reasons why.”
2. Setting restrictions can deter WiFi misuse
“We provide 50Gb a month with a warning that anyone using more than their 12.5Gb per week allowance may be charged $20 for the upgrade to the next allowance (200Gb/month). I do this because I have had families with kids who can blitz through 10Gb a day downloading music/movies and playing games. If that happens in the first week of my billing cycle then my service would be slowed down unless I upgrade for the month. Most months, though, we would only use about 20Gb.
I also have a clause in my terms and conditions that: “ADSL WiFi and satellite TV are provided as a convenience only and are not integral to the license to use the property. No refund of payments shall be given for outages, content, lack of content, speed, access problems, lack of knowledge of use, or personal preferences with regard to services”. The WiFi needs a password to access it.”
“We have set up a separate network for guests with their own password. As we can only get satellite broadband there is a limited monthly data usage so we ask that guests respect this and do not download large files or stream video/film etc. So far, no problems. There is no mobile coverage where we live, but the teens can, of course, use their smartphones to access the internet and check their Facebook accounts! We regularly check a website which gives us up to the minute usage levels and can always buy in extra Mbs. Usually, most guests are happy to enjoy the staggering rural setting and ‘get away from it all’! For myself, I also prefer remote rentals and have had to visit internet cafes every couple of days to check on email rental bookings etc., but it’s never a deal breaker!”
3. But without restrictions, guests will download illegal material
“I offer free WiFi but do restrict it a little by not allowing peer-to-peer, pornography, nudity, etc. sites to be accessed. How? I use OpenDNS for my DNS server. This may be a bit geeky for some, but if you set up an account with OpenDNS, you can then use their site to set up your network to restrict certain types of traffic, see what sites were accessed, etc. Check it out at www.opendns.com. Hope this helps!”
“My WiFi is provided by Comcast and I have received warning emails a few times that my guests have illegally downloaded movies. Comcast threatens to “pull the plug” if it is done again. My property is rural and Comcast is the only provider available. As has been mentioned WiFi has become extremely important to my guests. I can not afford to lose it. What language should I add to my rental agreement to give notice to guests that illegal use of the internet is not allowed?”
“Yesterday’s luxuries are today’s necessities! People traveling to Orlando expect WiFi to be available and free. I would recommend having the WiFi accessed with a password. This will not stop guests from downloading protected material like music or videos, and Comcast does monitor such behavior. We did receive a phone call from Comcast explaining that someone at a home was downloading music without paying for it (our office was the contact phone number for the account). We communicated with the guest who did not know what her kids were illegally downloading music and they stopped. I feel that good communication with your guest and property owners prevents most problems.”
4. It’s not up to the owners – guests should take responsibility
“Isn’t this just ridiculous? If I sell a knife, I don’t need to track who I sold it to in case it’s used in a crime. Why should I assume that someone might misuse my internet connection? In my opinion, this is a case of the police and government pushing the burden of enforcement of their silly rules onto industry. We don’t track our users and we never would out of principle.”
“The WiFi we provide is password protected, but it is the same for all of our guests. Who is going to go in and change the password every time a new guest checks in? In a lot of cases, there are only 5 hours between one guest leaving and another arriving giving the housekeepers barely enough time for laundry and cleanup. Really folks, if I was a criminal I don’t think I would rent a vacation rental to accomplish my illegal network activities. That’s why there are Starbucks coffee shops…”
“We provide free WiFi, however by Italian Law, to prevent problems, we let the guests fill a form with the IN/OUT dates and a declaration of no responsibility for us of the use they do on the internet.”
5. Overall, even agencies are confused with what WiFi rules work best
“Silly rules everywhere. For instance, I had 2 days ago a conversation with an agency that is promoting my long-term apartment rental in Paris. He says that I, the owner, should be subscribing to the internet and that it was a deal breaker if not. He said that the rental lease was “protecting” me from any “misuse” of the internet.
However, another agent told me that for long-term rentals, it was dangerous for me to leave my own internet connection and that I should stop my contract. So, one agent tells me to absolutely keep the connection under my name, the other says I should not.”
Best practices for a secure vacation rental WiFi network
Even owners with basic computer skills can ensure their vacation rental WiFi remains safe and secure for guest use by following a few simple steps. These include:
- Learning how to access your router configuration dashboard
- Changing your router passwords
- Modifying the network name
- Creating an encrypted guest WiFi network
- Connecting smart home devices to the encrypted WiFi network
- Storing your router in a place that’s not accessible to guests
- Carrying out regular firmware updates.
For an in-depth tutorial on how to do the above, take a look at our article on Airbnb WiFi: How to Ensure Cyber Security for Your Guests.