Activist Wifi

Stealing wifi is an old subject but it remains an interesting one. That some people have been prosecuted for stealing wifi in different parts of the world is also old news.* Still most of us have no problem checking for open networks when we need to access. I have also known users to be on their neighbours wifi without knowing or meaning to – they just don’t understand the difference. But this may be a minorty.

The availablity of open networks is either intentional, unintentional or even accidental. Accidental occurs when people don’t know about wifi and unintentional happens when people don’t know what they are doing. Then there is the group who intentionally shares their wifi.**

Some would prefer to share because sharing is good. Bruce Schneier has written about the added good of openness.

Similarly, I appreciate an open network when I am otherwise without bandwidth. If someone were using my network to the point that it affected my own traffic or if some neighbor kid was dinking around, I might want to do something about it; but as long as we’re all polite, why should this concern me? Pay it forward, I say.

The attitudes about freeloading and sharing vary. Some are scared of intrusion, some support the openness and others could not care less. Unfortunately the latter group is growing. I say unfortunately since the default settings on more wireless routers, especially those provided by ISPs, are closed.

This is the equivalent of the house advantage in roulette. Slowly and surely their will be no openness left other than those few activists who strive to ensure open networks. This means that the struggle for openness will go from the commonplace to the realm of the activists.

* Arstechnica reports that an Illinois man was arrested and fined $250 in 2006 & in Michigan man who parked his car in front of a cafĂ© and snarfed its free WiFi was charged this past May [2007] with “Fraudulent access to computers, computer systems, and computer networks.” In a similar case from Singapore (Engadget) a 17-year old recieved 18 months of probation under the Computer Misuse Act for stealing his neighbours wifi. In the UK one man was been arrested and two people have been cautioned for WiFi theft or “dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment.”

** Sharing wifi will in most cases violate the contract terms for most internet service providers.

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