All your wireless basestations are belong to us

Locking down your in-home wireless network is like paying the cable company to take your neighbor’s money.

It’s to everyone’s advantage to fill their neighborhood with wireless access. It should be a municipal service. We benefit as a community when a resource is widely available. The tragedy of the Commons only applies when the shared commons is a limited resource.

The only people who don’t benefit from open community networks are companies who profit from the marketing-created illusion that bandwidth is rare, precious, and costly.

Do you scream at your neighbors: “get your OWN cell phone network and stop using mine!”

Do you call the cops when someone takes a shower using YOUR aquifer?

Does your radio’s signal belong to you?

Remember when it was illegal to make a free long-distance call? Were we going to run out of phonelines? Or was it because, for awhile, “long-distance calling” was the only established business model available to consumers, and eventually legislation built up to protect the market?

Once cellphones created a different profit model, did free long-distance calling stop being “wrong”?

“Ownership” of a wireless network connection is marketing, not reality.

Nobody is going to break into your computer. Nobody cares about capturing your keystrokes. There are better ways to secure your computer than hiding inside a little ComCast/TimeWarner-generated moat and trembling in fear of imaginary baddies who want to eat your bandwith.

Bandwidth is not a limited resource. You are not gonna run out of Internet.
Do you know anyone who has ever run out of Internet? No.

Get a firewall and quit whining.

15 Replies to “All your wireless basestations are belong to us”

  1. okay…
    here it is
    1.each person on a block roughly the size of a football field will pitch in $1-2 each month

    2.the cost is included with local city services

    3.wireless hubs with t1-t2 power broadcast on existing lines which will go to unix routers with repeaters placed strategicaly to not only spread that blocks’ signal but also blend it nicely with the neighboring blocks

    4.the money for the cheap routers and repeaters would come from “clean money” campaign fees collected from dirty politicians.

    5.the routers and repeaters will be assembled by learning high schools students to get them out of gangs and give them cash. having students do it would prevent them from being assembled in a sweatshop in a country we can’t pernounce.

    4.the router/repeater work will be done by people who need jobs and work experience

    5.the communities will be tied in to the formation of their own city by being more informed and less out of the loop with local and global happenings

    6.the evil cable companies make a contract with the city and eventually bocome engulfed in the monopolistic conglomorate that is city politics

    7.quit bitchin and proposition your neighbors now. find out which have wireless and offer a third or forth of the bill if they at least tell you the password. that will be a good start. least get to know you neighbors, so the first time you see them isn’t when you’re pulling their daughter out from underneath the rubble of an earthquake/hurricane/tornado -ridden building.

    9. quit bitchen, we’ve got bigger problems to solve…

  2. “Bandwidth is not a limited resource.”

    But when you’re paying for a certain amount of gigs a month, then it is limited. I’m all for sharing, but if I only get xGB a month, I don’t want my neighbours being able to hook in and use it.

    And until unlimited downloads are standard on all broadband packages, then people will continue to lock down their wireless networks.

  3. Sorry! Another post as I forgot to make a point in my above post…

    “On that note, how am I (theoretically) using your dime when my presence has no effect on your resource?”

    Your presence on my wireless access might not cost me any more money, since my cable bill will be the same if you are there or not. However, if your presence on my wireless access impedes my use of that resource which I am paying for (if your addiction to bittorrent slow me access down or interrupts it) then you are still costing me, only this time the cost is my time, effort, and frustration, rather then straight up $$$.


    (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch)

    There. I think that I am done now. :)

  4. “Locking down your in-home wireless network is like paying the cable company to take your neighbor’s money.”

    On the other hand, not locking down your in-home wireless is like inviting your neighbors to abuse your good nature. I am sure that if my neighbors were willing to give me some money toward my monthly cable bill, I would be happy to allow them to use my wireless network. However, since this is not the case, I am happy to lock down my wireless network so that they cannot do so.

    Of course considering that most of my neighbors are either at or near retirement age, this is not an issue that I really have to loose sleep over. (As far as I can tell, mine is the only wireless signal on my street.) Also, my wireless signal is not a terribly strong one, and just barely covers my house. I can sit on my back deck in the summer and be online, but if I move over to the edge of my property line, the signal drops waaay off… and I don’t have what I consider to be a huge yard either.

    We will just forget about any security issues and concerns for the time being.

    Bottom line is, yes, free wireless is great. However (big however) somewhere down the line, someone is footing the bill for your free access. And someone had to buy all of the hardware. And someone had to set everything up and troubleshoot it. And I would rather that that someone not be me. So sorry you feel differently, we will have to agree to disagree, yadda yadda yadda. I guess that I am not very egalitarian, and that I would make a horrible socialist.

    Yeah, no one will ever run out of internet. Bandwidth, however…

    At this point I would just like to reiterate what you yourself said in an earlier post concerning bittorrent and bandwidth… “Curse you bittorrent! Curse your deadly allure and telling bandwidth consumption!” If the connection you are using is one that has bandwidth limitations, then you can indeed run out of bandwidth, or slow everyone else’s access way down. I wonder if this was the case with your new neighbor?

    About half of my internet usage is high-bandwidth (downloading and uploading huge files and programs when working from home, uploading huge high-res photos, etc, etc) and I can tell when someone else (John) is also uploading/downloading because my upload/download rate either slows way down or stops entirely. It is so infuriating to set up a series of photos to upload, and go off to do something else, only to discover later that the whole upload choked because someone (John) decided to download some music… These days I give him a heads up as to when I am doing a huge download/upload and ask that he hold off on his own downloads/uploads until I am done.

    Pardon my very rambling thoughts, discourse, excessively long post… this is a good issue for debating…

  5. The only sensible argument I can think of against open WiFi is that someone might use your network to do something illegal (like download child pornography). Some juries have been exceptionally uncomprehending and unsympathetic to people who have ‘facilitated’ such access.

    While the principle of free access is a noble one, liability doesn’t seem to be a trivial concern.

  6. “Lighten up, or at least shut up?” My, my, such rudeness. Erica at least has been cordial. But I don’t feel like a victim. I’ve simply been arguing a different perspective. And you only repeat the point already made, without advancing the conversation with any meaningful rejoinder. In deference to Erica, whose writing I very much enjoy, this will be my last word on the topic (after all, this is her blog). But consider this, Solomon: your evident contentment with a situation in which I play the theoretical shark to your remora, actually serves to perpetuate the current profit model that Erica argues against: without sharks, remoras have no place to catch a free ride.

  7. Sorry Eric, you may feel like a victim (go ahead, see if I care) but when we ask “Who’s ox is being gored?” you have no harm, no foul. It costs you not a dime more. Your mortgage doesn’t go up, your cell phone still works, your garbage still vanishes. You sound like a piggy Republican who finds injury where there is none. Your ox is not being gored. So lighten up, or at least shut up.

  8. If I sleep in your tool shed, what’s the harm? You pay the same monthly mortgage either way.
    If I hijack your cellular signal but am nice enough to only use it on weekends when your minutes are unlimited, what’s the big deal?
    If the garbage collectors will take up to eight bags of trash each week and you only ever put out three, why shouldn’t I add my one or two in with yours and save myself the cost of the service? You’ll probably never even notice.
    You’re using my dime in this, Erica: that without my willingness to pay into the current prevailing profit model, you wouldn’t be able to have the access you’re tapping into. It’s not a matter of “owning” the network. It’s a matter of paying for the access – right or wrong – and you only get to freeload because I paid. So you are indeed on my dime.

  9. Ah ha, Eric! You have succumbed to my vitriolic rant! No hard feelings friend, just stirring the waters.

    On that note, how am I (theoretically) using your dime when my presence has no effect on your resource? Dimes are tangible and limited. Bandwidth isn’t. Give me your address and I’ll send you five bucks.

  10. Oh, Erica, I so sympathize with you.

    So, for those of us who like to share, have you heard of this?

    I am getting one as soon. It’s starting to catch on in Providence, RI, but, naturally, it’s hottest in NYC and California. You may not have many people in your area to share with yet, but eventually people will see the light.

    Hmm, I need to blog this on libraryland…

  11. I don’t want people using my WAP because it gives them access to my network, not because I don’t want them using my bandwidth. And I don’t trust most of the software firewalls out there (yes, I know, paranoid, but still. I use them, but I don’t trust them). The WAP broadcasts from INSIDE my hardware router/firewall.
    The majority of people who hijack WiFI do it only for the access, not to steal information, but it only takes once. Plus, there are a lot of stupid kids out there who think it is very funny to mess up other people’s stuff for no particular reason.

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  13. Does municipal WiFi work well? I’ve never been somewhere where I could try it, but I’ve read of problems with rollouts because WiFi signals have trouble penetrating people’s houses and the limited range of a router means that coverage becomes spotty. Have you ever tried muni wifi?

  14. “Quit whining?” Who’s doing the whining here anyway? You are. When my tax dollars are paying for the government-sponsored wi-fi system installed throughout my city (pipedream), I’ll have a different attitude toward sharing my access point with you. But when I’m paying for it, and you’re hijacking my access without paying for it – stuff it. I don’t worry about my neighbor using my cellular system because he’s not doing it on my dime. You want the economic model to change? That’s fine. Eventually it’s likely to. For now, though, either come talk to me about splitting the cost of my ISP service with me, or stay the hell off my router.

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