Since the New Year. three volunteers have been testing out an initiative to provide free broadband to anyone located near one of our access points with a Wi-Fi enabled device.

We were hoping to test this out and roll it out so other individuals can take part and turn Lochgelly into an open Wi-Fi area, but first we needed to make sure the service wouldn’t be abused, and that the network would remain secure.

We have three access points; North Street, South Street, and the Main Street near the co-op. South Street has two guest users, Main street has 21 guest users, and North Street has 42 guest users. The North Street connection is so high due to mobiles connecting to the network, persistent guest users amount to 11 people.

Recently the network in North Street has used 352Gb of bandwidth for August (as of the 27th of August) which is exceptionally high. Most of the traffic was from a guest user connecting to Xbox Live. We’re assuming if they have an Xbox Live account then they have their own internet and decided it would be okay to use one of our networks to escape their own monthly bandwidth limitations.

Because of the high usage we have now implemented OpenDNS on all 3 networks. OpenDNS allows the three volunteers to monitor activity on their network, including domains visited, access times (for the network), and allows domains to be blacklisted or whitelisted (ie – blocked or allowed). Using OpenDNS, the volunteers can now block access to a range of services such as sites labeled as Hate/Discrimination etc.

We didn’t want to go down this route of censoring the networks, but since the volunteers are legally liable for their network, and we have a few cases in the past few months of people abusing the service, we have had to restrict what content is available through our free networks.

The advantages of using OpenDNS is that people accessing our networks will be able to browse more safely as we have blocked off access to known Malware & Botnet sites, and Phishing sites (identity theft, fraud, etc.). We have blocked of the following types of site:

  • Academic Fraud
  • Hate/Discrimination
  • Pornography
  • Parked Domains
  • Proxy/Anonymizer
  • Tasteless
  • German Youth Protection
  • Adware
  • Gambling

Blocking these types of sites are not 100% effective as some sites may not have been categorised by the OpenDNS community, so the three volunteers providing the free internet will be actively monitoring sites visited and blacklisting any that fit into the above categories, and categorising them through the OpenDNS community.

All guest connections to the free Wi-Fi access points will now be issued with a fixed static IP address, this does not identify individual users, it is merely to protect the three volunteers in case anyone decides to use these free internet access points for engaging in illegal online activities.

The data collected through our networks will never be disclosed or shared with any 3rd parties. The data will only be disclosed to comply with a court order, or to help law enforcement agencies complete any investigations of illegal activities being conducted on our networks.

We apologise for taking these measures, but we need to protect our volunteers as they are legally liable for what happens on their networks and due to a minority of users abusing the service, this is the only option if we are to carry on providing free internet to specific areas.

If there is any site that is blocked on our networks, and you feel it is unfairly blocked, please post the domain name, and the reasons you think it should be unblocked on our forum thread specifically dealing with the free internet access points.

We will investigate all sites that are reported and if they are not a security threat (ie malicious sites etc.) and do not fit into any of the categories above, there is a good possibility that we will whitelist the domain. If the domain is to remain blocked, we will give you the full reasons why.

OpenDNS is a free service with paid options and is a very handy tool, especially for network administrators or for individuals that would like to monitor and restrict access to certain types of sites to help protect their children if they browse online unsupervised. We will create an article about OpenDNS once we have fully explored all the features but you can learn more at: www.opendns.com

If you have any technical issues with our free internet access points or would like to request a domain to be unblocked please post on our forum thread.

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