Is it really that bad to borrow someone else's Wi-Fi?

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will.jpgWill Head writes…

If you’re protective of your internet and live in Worcestershire, then you’ll need to keep it locked up after a second person was cautioned for using a Wi-Fi connection without permission.

Neighbours in Redditch raised the alarm after seeing a man using a laptop in his car parked outside a house, according to the BBC. Earlier in the month a woman was caught doing the same thing – although she’d cunningly thought to put cardboard in her car windows so as not to arouse suspicion. Because a car with shoddily blocked out windows wouldn’t make anyone think you were up to no good.

The man was cautioned for ‘dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment’.

Of course, if you’re going to go out of your way to steal someone else’s net connection, it does sort of imply you’re up to something a bit dodgy. Accidentally logging onto the wrong hotspot is one thing, driving around town until you find an open connection to feed you net addiction is another. You could be looking at all manner of nefarious things on the internet and the owner would be none the wiser – until the vice squad came a knocking.

If the access point has encryption turned on, then that’s a fairly sure sign that the owner doesn’t like to share – but what if there’s no protection at all? Maybe they don’t mind sharing their connection – after all it’s there to be used, isn’t it?

What if the signal reaches into your home through no fault of your own? Do you have a right to use any transmissions that fall onto your property? If your broadband’s on the blink, is it really that bad just to snaffle a little of your neighbours bandwidth so you can check your mail?

Some projects such as Consume.net (although it’s looking a little neglected at the moment) actively promote using other people’s Wi-Fi – it’s a community thing. Share your connection at home and you can use someone else’s when you’re out and about. Does that mean that Wi-Fi sharing is now a no go area?

Maybe there should be a recognised standard for saying ‘Hey, use my internet connection if you want’. Start your network name with ‘HUMICIYW’ and it shows you’re happy for others to hop on when they please. Well, it could be a bit more snappy, but at least everyone knows where they stand (or sit, if they’re in car).

Will Head