Wireless ethics

So I took this apartment thanks to good wireless capital in the neighborhood, and now that I’ve got an antenna, I’m leeching bandwidth from someone on my block. It’s not new to me; I’ve been stealing wireless since I plugged in my 802.11 card one day and discovered that I could.

But at my last apartment, in the student slums of Cambridge, the wireless network was named Nethack Inside, which I took to be some MIT students (or local anarchists). No harm done, right? I’m using up a bit of my wireless karma, but in the long run, I’ll probably give it back.

The ethics here at my new place aren’t so simple. The network is named default (which is better than My Network, I guess) and the street is populated with beautiful Victorian houses. With families. I’m not so sure Mr. and Mrs. PTA would be so excited to know that I’m stealing packets from them.

So here’s the dilemma: is it better to speak up now, or just cry a lot if they find out? Approaching them might ensure me access indefinitely, but it might also freak them out. I can just picture their faces when the cops raid my place and find antennas and wires and pringles cans. “Yes ma’am, it appears you’re the victim of reckless wireless larceny and network trespassing. Don’t worry though, we’ll toss the book at this one.” Ugh.

6 thoughts on “Wireless ethics

  1. you know, if *you* think it’s wrong, then it’s wrong for you to do it. your integrity is more important than getting caught or not getting caught, and it’s a *lot* more important than any amount of money.

    do what you have to do to look in the mirror every morning. or in this case, in order for you not to have to go through a little litany of “why this is all right” everytime you remember where your Net access comes from.

  2. I lean towards “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Which probably also means you shouldn’t go around meeting the neighbors giving them a chance to ask.

  3. I’m pretty comfortable “stealing” wireless, if we have to call it that (I know, I started it), because I think it’s a very karmic system. What I’m worried about is how to perpetuate my current access for as long as possible.

    If I were on the other side of the fence, I’d probably want to be approached, at least in the current wireless milieu. But that fence happens to be a white picket one, and I don’t know how those people think. I’ve been a college student for too long. Me and my basement apartment might look pretty creepy to them.

  4. The cost is probably fixed, but bandwidth is shared. Legally, they are responsible for whatever goes over their network, but I think privacy is the biggest issue. Presumably they have a firewall which protects their precious powerpoint presentations from the outside world, but not from me.

    I could be devious and send subliminal messages to their printer: “be free,” “love is in the air,” “the encryption switch should not be turned on,” etc. But I’ll probably just be silent.

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