Before posting this, I did a quick search on "Wifi" and though I found several of the resulting discussions insightful, I didn't necessarily see anything that would overlap very much with this, so here goes.
This is the story of the evolution of how I offer wifi to guests, shared with the AirBnB host community in case othes have had to overcome challenges similar to mine.
IN THE BEGINNING, I had 1 router and it broadcast 2 wifi networks, 1 for guests, and 1 for me. The guest network was set up to prevent connected devices from seeing each other, as well as from accessing the router's administative interface. The other network (mine) was unrestricted. "In the beginning", I figured that was enough. The unrestricted network was intended to be used by the PS3 I had set up for guests (to use streaming services and the like), but my co-host at the time was uncomfortable with showing guests how to use the PS3, so it was temporarily retired.
A few months into hosting, I get a notice from my internet service provider (ISP) that they are required by law to forward me an email they received from the law firm representing the interests of a content owner whose intellectual property was observed to be downloaded unlawfully from an IP address that had been assigned to my internet account at the time of the download.
I was a bit taken aback, but when I dug into it, I noticed the time and date provided for the alleged violation were while I had a guest at the house (and only the guest was occuping the house at the time).
I considered what my options were in terms of how to prevent this from happening again. My first thought was "Can I set something up that prevents so-called illegal downloading?" Five minutes of research on the matter led me to the conclusion that someone who wants to download, legally or otherwise, will find a way no matter what - the tech and techniques are designed for that. I then considered putting a splash screen up for guests connecting to wifi with some sort of disclaimer for them to agree to, but that screamed to me of guest-unfriendliness. So my next question was "Well, allright, then is there a way I can avoid being targetted by these ISP notices if a guest should do something like this again?" and the answer (after another 5 minutes of research) was VPN.
So I signed up for a VPN service, and then set up my router to stay connected to the VPN. Problem solved, right? Not exactly. In terms of preventing notices from ISPs, I haven't gotten a single one since. Yay! But.
Eventually, I was able to replace some things in the house (including my PS3-unfriendly co-host) and set things up to include a large flatscreen SmartTV, and the PS3 on another (not-smart) TV. But with the VPN in place, some of the more well known streaming services ceased to work (from either the SmartTV or the PS3). Ugh. 5 more minutes or researched revealed that these services actually hate VPNs and make a point of being incompatible with VPNs.
Based on that, one thought I had was to make the VPN apply only to the guest Wifi, and then connect the PS3 and the SmartTV to the unrestricted Wifi, but I could not find a way to make the router put VPN on only one of the wifi networks - it was all or nothing.
So, enter... a new, second router (with no VPN). I connected this new, second router directly to the ISP modem, and then connected my original router (the one with the VPN and the guest wifi) into the new, second router. On the new, second router I set up an exclusive wifi for just the PS3 and the SmartTV. So now they could stream happily with no restrictions. Guests would still connnect their own devices to the guest wifi (with the VPN), so whatever their activities were, it wouldn't result in warnings to me.
Not sure if any other hosts are faced with any of those considerations, but if so, hopefully my efforts will help you, OR, maybe you have a solution already that I could learn and benefit from!
All questions or comments are welcome.
Arghh My head is spinning.
VPN, ISP, modems PS3. routers.
I am so happy you have solved your problem. Congratulations.
But I have a low tolerance for tech things like this.
I hope to be lucky. I just let guests use my internet account.
I have found that illegal pirating comes in waves. Guest after guest will illegally download, then months to a year will go by without incident. I just ignore the ISP warnings.
Occasionally a guest will download a movie or subscribe to a movie channel on my dime. I will not find out until too late. I just pay for it and watch the movie channel for the month paid and then cancel it.
(I'm a cheapskate. If someone makes me buy something, I feel like its Xmas!)
I do realize that I am playing with fire, but to figure out the things you have figured out stresses me out.
Thanks for sharing.
"Occasionally a guest will download a movie or subscribe to a movie channel on my dime. I will not find out until too late. I just pay for it and watch the movie channel for the month paid and then cancel it. "
Paul you have amazing patience. I think when my Airbnb system is fully automated, I'm going to come to your Airbnb to study under you like a monk.
you lost me with VPN 🙂
I've heard about illegal downloads problems here on CC and as a result I just wrote in my house rules: " any illegal behavior is forbidden. The guest is responsible for any fees."
I hope it will be enough as we are licenced off site hosts and don't live at the same location.
We don't offer PS3, netflix and we don't have smart tvs. Just our own satelite dish + local tv programs.
We host people from all over the world and the best is to keep things and apliances as simple as possible. Too often they struggle to operate the simplest faucets and ordinary locks and keys .
I'm sure there are hosts who will find this helpful, but, yeah, count me with the 'this is too technical' and 'the fewer options guests have, the better' grouping, LOL.
To be fair, as much as I may not have properly explained it (or even over explained it), the net result is that guests still only have the one option, they just don't know that it's protecting me (and to an extent, them too) from whatever illegal downloading they may or may not be undertaking online. Guests never see any of this, it all goes on behind the scenes for them.
Not at all. Those are good tips.
Where we live it is $75 for 150 GB and no such thing as unlimited internet. Our guests can wipe us us out in a weekend. Right away we had problems. We do things like outline the costs (which most people had no idea how expensive it is to get internet to Northern Canada- 1400 km of line for 22,000 people, the internet provider is going to recoup that cost somewhere), and then also have a seperate login for the unit so we know which account is using what. Ironically the only person we have had to tell to slow down is a local who wanted a weekend out of his shared accomodations with his girlfriend.
Brent and Sara, I lived in Whitehorse under the monopoly of NWTel for the better part of 5 years, and in fact, just last year I helped the Johnsons Crossing Lodge re-jigger their wifi to prevent them experiencing the same issue you are describing (more recently, I also got them to start listing on AirBnB and am co-hosting with them for now to help them in the beginning).
It so happens that the same router I described in my original post (which runs the open-source DD-WRT firmware) ALSO has the means to put a speed limit on a specific wifi network. So, whether you need your router to broadcast a guest network and a regular network, or whether there's just one network for everyone, you can put a speed limit on it using a DD-WRT router. I'd be happy to talk about it with you further if you like. If you know Sandy in Johnsons Crossing, you can ask her if it's been helpful! 🙂
We are renting out a log cabin in the Appalachians and we just don't get cable on the mountain (it's not even an option). We offer DISH tv and basically use our own personal cellular Hotspot if we want to watch Netflix, etc. since we get excellent cell coverage at the cabin.
I have looked into getting Satellite internet (ridonkulously expensive) and cellular portable wifi (expensive as well & not sure if I can cap it off per weekend stay). What can we do so that we can offer wifi to our Guests at the cabin without going broke in the process?
I have a VPN account... how do you dedicate the VPN to your guest router? Don't you have to open the VPN in a device first (pc, cell phone, tablet) and select a location frim there? Can you explain more.
I'm thinking of getting a 2nd router as you suggested. I just figured out how to hard wire my TV to the router so I am guessing that will open up the traffic to other wireless devices connected to the wireless router.
I read that a second router can extend the reach of one router. Is that true?
Hi FLorence and Michael!
A few separate questions I got out of your post, let me give it a shot.
VPNs CAN be used on individual devices, as you've described. They can ALSO often be set up on routers, so that any individual devices connected to that router all benefit from the one VPN connection on the router. Making a VPN connection happen from the router requires a bit of matchmaking, because 1) your VPN provider needs to support a router-connection (VyprVPN and NordVPN do for sure, haven't researched any others yet), and 2) your router needs to be able to make a VPN connection (not all can). I use a router running the DD-WRT open-source firmware, and it has the ability to use the OpenVPN system to connect to a VPN provider.
The only reason I needed to get one was because I needed a non-VPN wifi network for my Netflix enabled devices (that guests would use), like the SmartTV and the PlayStation. If I didn't need "non-VPN" internet (aka naked internet), I wouldn't need the 2nd router.
Extending Wifi Range:
Extending the reach of your wireless router can be accomplished a few different ways. There are articles online that explain how to do that with a second router, and though that's valid, I have found that the more user-friendly approach has been to buy and install the range extenders dedicated to extending range.
Hard wiring your TV to your router:
From the way you said it, I am assuming that before you hard wired your TV to your router, your TV had no internet connection at all. If your TV and other wifi devices are all connected through the same router, usually that means they can each talk to each other, if the individual devices are set up to do so (for example, there is an app for android devices that corresponds to an app for some smartTVs that lets the user of the android device project / "cast" what they are watching on the android device, to the SMartTV screen). That said, with some routers, if it makes sense to do so, you can actually set it up so that devices connecting through the same router (wifi or wired both) CAN'T talk to each other. One example of this is if multiple airbnb listings in the same house share one wifi network, I wouldn't necessarily want multiple guests who don't know each other having their devices exposed to another guest's potentially infected device.
Hope those answers helped!
Very good post!
I’ve been thinking about such issues too.
Fortunately we never had any such problems yet (which does not mean, there will never be any). And it is also part of our house-rules: “Downloading illegal or copyrighted content is forbidden. Watching any non-blocked paid video-channels is forbidden too. Furthermore, making any configuration-, hard- or software changes to our internet infrastructure is also forbidden”.
The problem: Whatever I do, I cannot replace the lousy ISP modem in the middle (But I will investigate whether a VPN service will solve potential issues like these).
Since I cannot really relocate my ISP router either. Guests will therefore always have the possibility to reset the router (the original network-id and associated password is in hard-print on the back of the router. And I have no intention to start scratching these off or something).
I was fortunately able to block “Pay-per-View” or “Video-on-Demand” channels (as far as I know, I blocked all of them. But what, when our ISP simply adds just more of those?)
Conclusion: Whatever you do, some people will always find their way.
And yes, a lot can be done to avoid situations like these, by adding additional equipment, configuration or services. But it doesn’t make things easier and could cause other problems (adding complexity will undoubtedly increase the chance to some problem of any kind).
Please bear in mind, 99 out of a 100 guests, just want to simply sign up to a Wi-Fi network. And use their mobile devices for common activities, which require internet-access.
And not having to jump through a load of hoops, just to sign up to the Wi-Fi.
Since I’m nowhere near our property, I cannot solve the more complex problems myself, by physically going there (as someone could simply/accidentally have unplugged a cable or something).
So all-in-all it is a bit of a trade-off: The chance of such an issue to happen versus the potential associated costs.
As we didn’t had a proper Wi-Fi signal in the bedrooms. We’ve also added a wireless range-extender with a different network name (again: Not an ideal solution. But for now it serves those guests, whom appreciate it).
Using a different network name (and password) also avoids kids to remain on their mobile devices, while they should be asleep. Which is highly appreciated by most parents.
Even in our pretty straight-forward setup. We sometimes encounter problems (we do not control, what wireless devices guest may bring with them).
Most of these problems can still simply be resolved however, by just recycling the power to our internet infrastructure.
The rule is pretty simple: When guests had problems connecting to the internet. You are most likely in for a bad review. Or at least mentioning the problematic Wi-Fi.
Originally, I installed a high-end wireless range-extender. But it caused too much stress on the simple ISP router. Causing the ISP router to stall frequently (Like: Daily).
Once I replaced my high-end wireless range-extender, by a very simple version. All these problems vanished instantaneously.
Again another usual example of consequences by adding complexity.