Facebook Wi-Fi

Facebook has teamed up with Cisco to let retail customers log in to businesses' Wi-Fi networks by "checking in." (Cisco)

Need Wi-Fi? Then "check in."

A feature introduced Thursday by Cisco and Facebook allows businesses to give customers access to their Wi-Fi networks when they post that they are at the retail location, or "check in," on the social network.

The idea is simple: Rather than charge customers for Internet access, businesses can instead trade their wireless connection for some exposure on Facebook.

"Essentially, Facebook Wi-Fi gives people a simple way to access Wi-Fi at local businesses, and it gives local businesses a way to connect with their customers," a Facebook spokeswoman told The Times.

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The new feature is found on Cisco's Meraki routers, which can be used by businesses, such as coffee shops or restaurants, to provide Wi-Fi for customers. Cisco announced a slew of new features for the routers on Thursday; the Facebook login ability was one of the highlights.

Meraki users can choose to have their customers log in through Facebook to gain Wi-Fi or they can also choose to have users log in using different methods, such as by paying for access or simply entering a code. It's all configured in the router's "dashboard."

Facebook began testing its Wi-Fi log-in feature late last year with businesses around its Menlo Park campus. This is the first we have seen of the feature since then, and it has clearly moved beyond being just a test.

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