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Facebook tests free Wi-Fi hot spots in exchange for check-ins

The social network gives routers to businesses to tempt users to connect to Internet for free if they check in on Facebook.

Facebook is testing a new Wi-Fi hot spot service for local businesses that lets users surf the net for free if they do a Facebook check-in.

First noticed by developer Tom Waddington today, the social network's experiment has businesses providing the Internet service in exchange for a Facebook router that will direct customers to the businesses' Facebook page after they check in.

Facebook confirmed to CNET that it's rolled out the "small test with a few local businesses," but didn't name any names.

"When you access Facebook Wi-Fi by checking in, you are directed to your local business's Facebook Page. Some stores may also offer deals or specials when you check in," a Facebook spokesperson said.

It seems like a good way for Facebook to get people to check-in more, adding to the social network's data pool. Location-specific information seems most valuable in targeting promotions or ads at customers on mobile devices, which is how most of Facebook's users access the network.

But, Facebook is apparently mindful of not forcing users to do something they don't want to do. Users -- or people without Facebook accounts -- who don't want to check-in on Facebook will still be able to access WiFi by entering a password provided by the business.

The idea comes from a Facebook hackathon session. While many of Facebook's features -- including the "Like" button and Facebook messenger and video chat -- come from these free-style programming events, plenty of others don't make the cut, so it's hard to tell if this WiFi idea will stick.