Restaurants, bookstores and cafes are frequently relied on to offer free Wi-Fi internet, but such services can also be harmful to businesses.
A recent report from the National Federation of Independent Business warns that open networks allow consumers and outside users to download media illegally - a process that can force internet service providers to slow down or shut off connections.
ISPs will issue a series of warnings regarding illegal downloads, of which many retailers are likely unaware.
"If a business owner does not take appropriate measures and receives those warnings based on the actions of unknown users, the owner then has to file paperwork to contest the alerts and contact the ISP," reports Lynn Ducey for the Phoenix Business Journal.
Accordingly, the NFIB recommends users secure their networks with password access and change those passwords frequently. Wi-Fi providers also reserve the right to block sites known for illegal downloading services.
Consumers expect businesses to offer free Wi-Fi and will just as soon go elsewhere if businesses are unwilling or unable to provide it. As a basic customer service measure, firms need to ensure that their networks are open only to their customers.