Okay, let’s be honest. All of us, at one time or another, have poached on a wi-fi network in order to get Internet access while on the road. Even Leo LaPorte, the host of The Tech Guy radio show, admitted he’s done it, too, on occasion. However, he’s never been clueless enough to whine about losing access to the wi-fi router after poaching for over a year and a half from home, or asking for technical assistance to get access back into it again (via Melissa Clouthier):
Leo’s right; technically, this is theft, although no one’s going to arrest anyone for it. You’re taking resources (especially bandwidth) from people who have to pay for it. It’s not theft when using the public networks that businesses set up for their customers, such as Panera and other coffee shops, although it’s arguably unethical if one uses their networks without at least buying something from them. When using a private but unencrypted network for more than 18 months, that’s a completely different matter, ethically if not legally.
What are the morals to this story? If you have a wireless network in your house, encrypt it immediately, and make sure you check once in a while to ensure that only your devices are on the network. If you have to travel extensively (or just are out of the house on a regular basis), then get a wireless access device through the cell phone companies. I use Verizon’s MiFi 2200, and it works great; I can even network a few PCs off of it if I need to do so. For the home, get a bundled package from the phone or cable company for your own Internet connection. Remember that any unencrypted access point not only allows you access to the Internet, it allows the network access to your PC and the stream of communication you’re creating between your PC and the Internet. It’s like having sex with strangers and not using a condom; you’ll only get lucky for so long before getting a disease.
And if you poach someone else’s Internet access for 18 months, don’t whine when it disappears or call into tech shows to try to get it back — unless you really enjoy being an example to others and exposing yourself as a clueless cheapskate. As for her final defense, that the price of broadband Internet access drove her to poaching, it’s a great example of the entitlement mentality in current vogue — and her “someone should make it cheaper” demand is the impulse that drives statism.