Providing free WiFi is a great way for landlords to set their properties apart and guarantee interest from more potential tenants.
Regardless of where one falls on the issue, the ongoing debate surrounding net neutrality has raised an interesting question: is internet service really just another utility like electricity or water? While 90% of Americans do have access to some sort of broadband service, it’s still far from common for landlords and property managers to include cost-free access as part of a rental agreement like they would with other utilities. This, however, may soon start to change.
From nationwide initiatives like Digital India to residential network upgrades at colleges and universities across the United States, there’s an argument to be made that reliable internet access is becoming just as much of a basic utility as electricity, water, and gas. If done properly, property managers should be able to leverage free WiFi service into a significant competitive advantage in the very near future.
But before property managers commit to such a generous gesture, they should consider whether their building can support the necessary infrastructure. Conveniently, high-speed internet often piggybacks on existing infrastructure like copper telephone wires or coaxial television cables. Nearly every multifamily residence these days is wired for both telephone and television service, and if a property manager decides that basic broadband internet is good enough for their tenants, it shouldn’t be too difficult or expensive to add it on.
That being said, resolving the infamous “last mile” issue often requires a good deal of work. As with other large facilities like hospitals and warehouses, building a reliable multi-unit WiFi network in a sprawling apartment complex takes a well designed plan, along with an extensive collection of wiring, routers, switches and so forth. Building this kind of networking infrastructure is nearly impossible if you don’t have the experience or the level of certification needed to optimize connectivity in a large building.
Whether it’s a residential or a commercial property, managers should consider hiring a managed services firm like Turn-key Technologies. Seeking out the help of highly trained consultants will ensure not only that the process of installing and optimizing your network goes smoothly, but that you build a strong infrastructure that delivers quality internet speeds to tenants and requires little maintenance.
These challenges notwithstanding, providing free WiFi to tenants makes more sense every day. Millennials already represent a plurality (34%) of the American workforce, and are expected to comprise a majority of it as soon as 2020. As such, this first generation of “digital natives” will soon become the driving force in the marketplace, and companies that don’t adjust their offerings accordingly are in for a rude awakening.
Fortunately, property managers have a number of options for monetizing this new service they’re providing. For instance, managers can offer free basic WiFi throughout their complex and allow tenants with greater bandwidth demands — those who work from home, those who are avid gamers, those who regularly upload or download large files — to either pay a fee for premium service or sign an individual service contract with an ISP. The pay-per-bandwidth model has already proven tremendously effective in large public venues.
Regardless of how it’s monetized and delivered, free WiFi represents a powerful incentive that may very well dictate tenants’ — especially millennial tenants’ — renting decisions in the years to come. As WiFi slowly but surely pivots from “privilege/perk” to “right/necessity,” rental properties that deliver it free of charge (and free of worry) will attract more tenants than those that do not.
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