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Ask the Wi-Fi Guy: Hotspot Sharing

By Aaron Weiss

There are many writers you can turn to for advice. Want to know how to confront your mother-in-law about that single-slice toaster she gave on your birthday? Write to Dear Abby. Want to know whether you owe $50 to replace your friends' tire after he drove over a nail in your driveway? Write to The Ethicist.

But if you want to know what kind of connector you need to plug a booster antenna into your wireless router, or why your wireless router is much slower than the claims on the box, you can ask The Wi-Fi Guru. You should. Please. We would like that. And unlike The Ethicist, we won't make fun of you. To submit your question, simply send me an e-mail, and be sure to put "Wi-Fi Guru" in the subject line.

Today's question:

Q: I just set up wireless in my house using a Linksys WRT54G. I'm thinking of sharing the cost of it via hotspot with my neighbor. How can I manage and control this hotspot? Is there any free hotspot management firmware available, and how do I use it?

A: As described in a recent tutorial on setting up a hotspot using DD-WRT, you can use your router to set up several different kinds of hotspots, which vary in features and complexity. When it comes to sharing the cost of your service, there are two ways you could go about managing your hotspot: one, use a hotspot service that lets you directly bill your neighbor for their usage or, two, use a service that lets you simply restrict their usage (in hours or bandwidth) to the proportion of service you've agreed to share with them.

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Billing your neighbor directly is probably not the best solution. You would need to use a fee-based hotspot service, which undermines the savings of cost-sharing with one neighbor. Two, your neighbor would probably then bill you when you drop by to borrow sugar. It could get ugly.

Using your WRT54G with DD-WRT, you can use its built in support for Chillispot, an open source hotspot solution. But rather than setup your own Chillispot server, which is a little bit complicated for this small-scale scenario, sign up for a free account at Worldspot.net. Worldspot will provide you with the exact settings you need to plug into the Chillispot configuration page on your router. You can then create an access profile for your neighbor, which limits her usage by your choice of criteria. If your broadband service offers 5Mbps download, for example, and you split the cost 50/50 with your neighbor, you can setup an access profile that limits your neighbor to 2.5Mbps. When you drop by for that sugar, you can collect their half of the service cost.

This article was excerpted from an article originally published on Wi-Fi Planet.


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