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The Right Tempo A blog by Felipe M. G. Ceotto

It’s been a long while since I’ve written something here, and I have to apologize for last time. It was the worst post I’ve ever done. It’s not an excuse but it was really late and I was not in a good moment there. :)

I meant to write this a while ago, but I didn't have the time, so despite the fact that the moment is gone now, I'm going to write it anyway, especially because I think the discussion shouldn’t have stopped. Last month another person was arrested in London for stealing a broadband connection.  This raised a discussion on if it is right or wrong to arrest people for using someone else's wireless connection without permission, or even better, if stealing wireless is wrong.

Unfortunately, the Communications Act 2003 says that a “person who (a) dishonestly obtains an electronic communications service, and (b) does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service, is guilty of an offence”, which of course gives legal basis to arrest whoever is stealing a broadband connection. Although it is legal to do this kind of arrest, I’m totally against it and I believe there are more dangerous people out there to be arrested.

Some people are comparing stealing wireless connections to reading a book using someone else’s light or even to reading a newspaper over someone’s shoulder because the stolen person doesn’t really lose anything, but other people are comparing it to getting the apples off of a tree that is inside someone’s yard but has branches hanging out the wall. I think both comparisons are not entirely correct and it has proven really hard for me to find a good analogy of what I think that stealing a broadband connection is. The thing is that when you steal someone’s broadband that person loses momentarily some of its broadband speed.

I wouldn’t like someone speeding down my broadband while I’m using it because I’m a demanding user and I use 100% of what my broadband connection gives me most of the time, but when I’m not using the computer at home, say, during work hours, my broadband use is reduced to a minimum and since I can’t store my bps’s for later, I wouldn’t mind having someone putting it to a good use, and here comes my point: I can, like everybody else, close the access to my wireless connection, and I can leave it open, it is my choice. If I leave it open from 09:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday, that won’t do me any harm and it might help other people but if these arrests keep happening nobody will use my willingly open connection in fear that they might be committing a crime, and there is no good way for me to advert that during that time I don’t mind other people using my wi-fi connection.

There is also another option which is to set your wireless router with quotas allowing your home computers to use up to 100% of your connection and other computers to use only whatever is free at the moment, so if I’m home, someone connecting to my wireless network won’t be able to use my broadband connection, or will be able to use just 5% of it, but if I’m not home or if I’m using only 10% of it, other people will be able to use the remaining band. That’s actually the perfect solution because “outsiders” will use only the spare band. The down point here is that this is not something simple to set up and not all routers allow this.

But, setting up the protection in a wireless router is quite simple and nowadays all the routers come with instructions to do this on their quick start guides, so if someone has let its own wireless network open, one could assume it was on purpose, on a gesture of good will, wouldn’t you think? It’s like leaving an open tap all day wasting water and then complaining about someone taking a little of the water you’re not using for anything. That’s not robbery, it is good use! The only thing you have to make sure is that people are not leaving you with less water when you need to use it, don’t you agree?

Anyway, I believe that the law has to be adapted for this case, and users maybe need to be a little better informed on how to close their wireless networks or how to share it properly if they want to. A lot of people in the community share their wireless connections because they want to, and this law is making that difficult, in my opinion. And to change this, people need to continue discussing the issue.

Posted on Friday, September 7, 2007 3:52 PM Technology | Back to top


Comments on this post: Stealing Wireless Connections

# re: Stealing Wireless Connections
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Hello, Mambo, i really do think that all you have talked about have sense and i also believe that is not so bad to use someone else`s network. Actually like you said we only use just about 5 - 10% of that speed. I have usually think to cancel my ISP, is great but if i can get it for free is even better. Where i live there are many networks, during the day they are busy and during the night i am, they actually said " we don`t have a problem with it". I liked how that sound. tke care write soon
Left by Jason x on Apr 05, 2008 3:18 PM

# re: Stealing Wireless Connections
Requesting Gravatar...
very good point. i myself am "borrowing" wireless right now lol you amde alot of great points. thank you.
Left by Leigh on Nov 28, 2008 6:44 AM

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