Hotspot is a public territory where internet access is provided via wireless local area network ("WLAN"). Hotels, restaurants, train stations, bus terminals, hospitals and university campuses are just some of many examples of Hotspot areas. As internet continues to grow, number of public authorities and commercial enterprises providing hotspot service to their guests increase every day and hotspots are used by many laptop and mobile device users. Several methods are used by these entities for allowing internet access such as e-mail information, creating profiles or asking for a membership passwords. While in many cases hotspot services are offered to guests for free, some commercial hotspot providers prefer to charge a certain fee in consideration of this wireless internet access.

In view of growing use of mobile devices and internet, particularly in Turkey, many Turkish restaurants, hotels and firms in service industry are already offering hotspot service to their customers.

Which Legal Aspects Should be Considered When Providing Hotspot Service to Customers?

Before providing Hotspot Service, prerequisites and permissions required under Information and Communications Technologies Authority ("ICTA") regulations should be identified as well as general law principles of Turkish Commercial Code and Code of Obligations.

  • Companies who render Wireless Local Internet Access Service – Hotspot from third party Access Providers and provide it to their own customers are evaluated under different titles according to ICTA legislation based on some criteria; e.g if the service is offered for free or for a charge.

    For example; companies providing Hotspot service for free are considered as Internet Public Use Providers according to "Regulation on Internet Public Use Providers", while companies providing this service to their customers for a charge are considered as Commercial Internet Public Use Providers.

    The obligations and prerequisites which are binding on Internet Public Use Providers and Commercial Internet Public Use Providers are different.

    It is substantial to determine and analyse which definition covers the service to be provided by the company under the applicable legislation. Pursuant to this determination, companies will be required to fulfil certain technical preconditions, registration procedures and to complete permission processes.
  • Regulations on Transmitters should also be evaluated as part of ICTA legislation.
  • Although the basic obligations with regards to Protection of Personal Data are binding for access providers and operators; companies, which collect personal data (Turkish Identity Number, passport number, telephone number etc.) for Hotspot access, shall also ensure the privacy of personal data and operate in accordance with the applicable legislation. Accordingly, it is a legal requirement to obtain permission from data owners in relation to personal data which may be collected for enabling Hotspot access.

It is a crucial issue for companies to regulate the technical conditions and obligations, arising from applicable legislation, properly in the agreements with Access Providers and end users. Otherwise companies wishing to offer benefits and provide value added services to their customers may face civil and criminal sanctions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.