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
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
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
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
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
Fortunately, we don't have
to passively accept this. We can fight back.
Many Benefits to Sharing Wi-Fi
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
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,
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
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
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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9 Apr 2010, last update
19 Dec 2013
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.