Like you probably, I’m surrounded by Starbucks. Every now and then, either due to a low signal or because I want to download a half of gig of this and that or because I want to play some harmless pranks on Starbucks patrons using wifi, I’ll hop on their access point.

In order to get on the Internet using their wifi, you first have to try to load something on your browser which gets intercepted to some kind of AT&T terms of service page, also known as a captive portal with a 204 redirect, and hit the OK button, and then you’re on the Internet courtesy of Starbucks.

Here’s the problem: When you first get on their wifi and go through the captive portal, a few days later when walking down Lexington Avenue to work, your phone spots Starbucks wifi access points of the same SSID name broadcasting into the streets and your phone, unless you told it to forget your original connection to Starbucks, will join those networks, and you will lose Internet access because you are trapped behind that captive portal.

You may not even realize it because you’re using some other app like Google Maps and figure your carrier is acting up, not getting on the Internet until you’re out of that Starbucks’s range. But in NYC, once you’re out of one Starbucks’s wifi’s range you may be within the range of yet another!

Would someone solve this please? It’s 2014, we can do this. Ideally Starbucks would get rid of the captive portal (I don’t understand what the purpose of that is, what it contributes either to society or to their business). Or how about getting all of their captive portals to sync up with each other and remember me and that I agreed to whatever the OK button does.

Alternatively, how about getting my phone to realize it’s in this situation and to revert to its cellular connection for data? How about having my phone figure out somehow that I’m walking by a different Starbucks? How about some app that, and though this is probably not a “best practice” security-wise, detects captive portals and tries to accept their TOS for you?

Perhaps I should give Iodine a try. Looks pretty badass, a good way to stick it to all the stupid captive portals of the world.

Doug Simmons

2 COMMENTS

  1. The Windows Phone 8.1 WiFi Sense feature, if enabled, does that for you. It is pretty neat… And also will share the settings, remembered networks, connection password, etc. with your other Windows devices, like a Surface or another phone, where you sign in with your Microsoft account. It was a pleasant surprise the first time I noticed it.

Comments are closed.