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It is bad enough paying rip-off rates for internet access at hotels to start with.  But when they then attempt to charge you for each and every device you wish to connect, it is time to fight back.

In addition to hardware Wi-Fi 'repeaters' there's a free program that runs on any Win7 computer that gives you a solution to this problem.

 
 
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Using Multiple Devices on One Internet Access Account

Save money in hotels and other places that charge per device accessing the internet
 

Wi-Fi hotspots are becoming more and more common, but it free Wi-Fi hotspots remain elusive.

With the growing number of internet using devices we all own, having to pay for each device to access the internet can become ridiculously expensive.

This is part of a series on how to share internet access.  See related articles listed on the right.

 

 

While many moderate priced hotels will give free internet to their guests, the more expensive the hotel, the more likely it is to charge for internet access, with rates and restrictive policies increasing in line with your room rate.

Many of us have both a laptop and a phone, both of which need internet access to be fully useful.  If we're traveling with a second person, you might need to connect four devices to the internet, and if a hotel or other internet provider limits your access to only one device per daily access fee, you could find yourself paying $100 or more a day just for internet access.

Fortunately, there are both hardware and software solutions to this unfair pricing.

The Nature and Extent of the Problem

These days we are surrounding ourselves with more and more devices that rely on the internet to work properly, nearly all of which now come with Wi-Fi connectivity as standard.

Some of these devices are things we're not likely to travel with, but many are specifically designed to make our life on the road easier.  Laptop computers, netbooks, cellphones, iPod Touches, and now iPads and soon many other tablet type devices too - all rely on internet access to be fully functional.

Sure, some of these devices can connect to the internet via 3G or faster cell phone data services, but these types of wireless data connections can be unreliable, slow, sometimes expensive, and worst of all, sometimes unavailable due to gaps in the coverage provided by the wireless companies.  Metal coatings on hotel windows can also filter out much of the wireless data signal and prevent us getting reliable connectivity in our hotel rooms.

And in most cases, just because we can connect to the internet with our phone does not help us when we also want (need) to connect our laptop or iPad to the internet too.

Different Policies for Restricting Internet Access

Companies selling internet access understandably seek to restrict and control who can use the access they are selling.

Some internet access providers will simply give you a password to use, and not control the number of different devices that then access the internet using the password, or where they access it from.  Others will simply control access such that any one device can use the password at a time, but the password can be shared among different devices, as long as only one uses it at any given moment.

In the case of ethernet based internet access (ie connecting via a wire) it is easy to restrict access to one physical connection - for example, you might buy access for the connection in room 435 of the hotel you are staying in, and this access of course won't then work in room 434.

Physical restrictions are obviously harder with Wi-Fi access.

The most restrictive policy is where the access provider restricts access to only one computer - ie, the one that it first 'sees' connecting via the access link/password granted.  If you wish to subsequently connect with a second device, even if not at the same time, but hours later, you'll have to pay a complete second access fee for the second device.

These restrictions can apply to any type of internet access, whether it is via a cable/ethernet type connection or via Wi-Fi.

Recently I was traveling with a laptop, a netbook, an iPhone and a Blackberry, all of which wanted to access the internet, and which would have caused me to pay for four sets of the daily access fee ($15) at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.  To show how outrageous this fee would have been (although you almost surely don't need persuading on this point) the $60 daily fee was the same that I was paying for the room per night.

The hotel was hoping to profit more from the internet access it sold me than from the underlying room rental itself.

$15/day for internet access is bad, but it can get much worse.  Particularly in foreign countries, you can find yourself paying twice that much per day for internet access.  What a cruel paradox it is that the better and more expensive the hotel, the less they provide for free!

Fortunately, we don't have to passively accept this.  We can fight back.

Many Benefits to Sharing Wi-Fi Access

There are many occasions when the ability to share internet access through a Wi-Fi network can benefit both you and your companions.

For example, if you are in a hotel, and have someone else traveling in your group in the adjoining room - or possibly adjoining rooms on either side and maybe further away too, then depending on the range of your Wi-Fi transmitter, you could make the person in the most central of the rooms the designated supplier of internet connectivity and have that person purchase one internet access and then share it through Wi-Fi for everyone else who can reach the Wi-Fi signal.

This concept applies just about anywhere you might find yourself together with friends or colleagues, and with chargeable internet access.  Maybe you're all in the airport waiting for your flight.  One of you can sign on to whatever Wi-Fi service is available and rebroadcast it to the rest of your group.

Even if you're at a coffee shop or internet cafe or just about anywhere else, you can have one person become the designated bridge between the fee based internet access being provided and the rest of you with your Wi-Fi devices.

How Hotels and Other ISPs Can Restrict Internet Access

Every device that connects to the internet has a unique identifier built into it.  You might have thought that accessing the internet is anonymous, but that is absolutely not the case, and never has been.

Quite apart from a number of other identifiers to track and trace you (that aren't relevant to this discussion) every device that connects to the internet necessarily has some sort of network interface card or controller (NIC) to allow for the connection.  All NICs have their own unique serial number, different from every other device, made by both the same, and every other, manufacturer.

This serial number is called its Media Access Control address, or MAC for short.  It is a 48 bit number that allows for 281,474,976,710,656 different unique identifiers (281.5 trillion) so it will be a long time before we run of these).

And so it becomes a relatively easy thing when wishing to restrict internet access to just one device per access code/account/fee, to simply link the access permission to one device's unique MAC address.

The only way to then access the internet with more than one device is if they all appear to have the same MAC address.

Hiding/Sharing Each Device's MAC

Most internet routers these days take a single internet (IP) address and then cleverly share it among all the different devices attached to the router.

In addition to probably sharing a single external internet address among all the devices, the router most likely also has the ability to either pass through each connected device's unique MAC address every time the device communicates with the external internet, or, alternatively, to also share a single MAC address (that belong to the router itself) among all the connected devices.  The default setting for most routers is to block individual device MAC addresses and instead to use its own MAC address for all communication with the external internet.

This provides an immediate workaround for people wishing to avoid the need to pay an access fee for each different device they are connecting to the internet.  The router appears as a single device, and then shares its access among the devices that are in turn connected to it.

For more details on how routers can be used to share a single internet connection, please click this link to the second part of this series.

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Originally published 9 Apr 2010, last update 08 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
Related Articles
Using Multiple Devices on One Internet Access Account
Hardware Solutions to Share Internet Access
Wireless Internet Access sharing
Connectify free sharing software

Accessing the Internet when Traveling
Hotel Internet Access
 
 
 

 


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