Hutong bars and cafés cut Wi-Fi access rather than buy expensive new software

Bars and cafés in Dongcheng district’s Wudaoying Hutong have been forced to cut off free Wi-Fi services for their customers, rather than paying 20,000 yuan ($3,104) to the local police station for new software.

Many of Wudaoying’s small business owners are in the dark as to why they have been ordered to install the software, allegedly developed by Shanghai Rainsoft Company.

“All the bar owners were summoned to Andingmen police station about one week ago. Police officers told us every bar must pay 20,000 yuan to buy monitoring software if they want to provide Internet access,” Huo Liang, a bartender at Muming Café, told the Global Times.

Muming Café decided to cut their Internet access. “The 20,000 yuan cost is just too steep,” Huo said, adding that most of the bars in Wudaoying Hutong had also chosen to stop their Internet service.

Those who continued providing access without installing the software first will be fined at least 20,000 yuan or face possible revocation of their business license, Huo said.

“Maybe some people who come here to have afternoon tea might feel bored with no Internet,” an employee at the nearby Vineyard restaurant said.

Some venues have seen a drop in business. “We got a document from the police, which said the software can  monitor the log-on time of each user. I guess it’s like the Wi-Fi at the airport; you have to use a registered account to get Internet access,” a café owner surnamed Liu said.

Liu’s café cut their Wi-Fi access in early July. “Our revenue has dropped about 30 percent,” she said.

People visiting Nanluoguxiang in  Dongcheng district can still enjoy Wi-Fi access but bar owners were also asked to install the software.

A Pass By Bar employee surnamed Wang said police from Jiaodaokou station, also in Dongcheng district had requested they buy the 20,000-yuan software, adding that so far police have not announced a deadline.

“I don’t think it’s proper for the police to do it,” Wang said, “Their job is to maintain public security. They should not charge us money.”

“Well, I’d prefer a bar with Wi-Fi,” said Li Juefei, a frequent bar goer. “I don’t quite understand this policy, anyone with a proxy can do whatever they want at other places, so why are they monitoring Web users in bars?”

Police officers at Andingmen and Jiaodaokou police stations claimed they were unaware of the software, as did a publicity office officer at Dongcheng district public security bureau who refused to reveal her identity.

Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau spokesman Zi Xiangdong was unaware of the matter and was consulting with relevant departments as of on Tuesday evening.

Employees at Rainsoft declined to answer questions on Tuesday, or admit they had provided the software, but they describe the uses for their monitoring software on the company’s official website.

It “can visually monitor real-time situations in Internet cafés, keep computer logs, create a sensitive word pool, screen and block entries that are deemed unfit, alert administrators when someone is searching with sensitive words and provide ports that can be connected to the public security network,” the description says.

Global Times |

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