Over the weekend and into this evening, I experimented with leaving three Internet hotspots I control without a splash page (802.1x). The purpose was to see if usage of the hotspots would increase. Previously, the number users with DHCP leases (I'm guessing) far outnumbered the users who were actively downloading data. The item in question was whether the splash page was an obstacle to use.
After leaving the hotspots open without splash pages over the weekend and into late Tuesday evening, it can be said that authentication does pose a slight obstacle to active use of the hotspots. However, the increase in usage without the splash page was far from dramatic. I can't draw any hard conclusions; but, I can at least expect that the splash pages do not hinder use of free WiFi too greatly.
The splash pages, consisting of randomly rotating websites, are re-enabled now. I have ordered three more Open-Mesh routers, doubling my current inventory. Yes, my data set is very meager. But, considering this is coming out of my pocket...
I will place the new routers in different location categories to see how usage differs. Currently, my routers are in two mobile phone retail shops and one restaurant. One of my targeted locations is an print/copy/ship retail location. Another is a promotional product shop. The third is back at my home, where I know there is pent up demand. Although, if a more suitable location crops up, I may yield the third router to it.
As of today, my goal is to build up to 20 Open-Mesh routers so that I can build up sufficient usage data to start making proposals. I already have serious interest by agencies from out of town; but, I still cannot say with any certainty what demand there is from the public, except that residential areas have greater bandwidth requirements.
It is ironic that commercial broadband plans prioritize data for their clients. Most businesses do not require guaranteed service levels. On the other hand, residential demands are greater; yet, they do not benefit from the same guarantees.
Going back to the original issue, splash pages are not a major obstacle to the adoption of free WiFi at the point of consumption. Those who know enough to seek hotspots are often aware of the need to authenticate, with very few exceptions.