Earlier this week, we pointed to the story of a man in Florida being charged as a felon for simply using an open WiFi network. That was based on a locally published news story in Florida, but that story went big yesterday when the Associated Press wrote up an account of it leading to a much bigger discussion (and a few people submitting it here, even though we'd written about it earlier in the week). Most of the new coverage has just rewritten the original story, but News.com has a more detailed question and answer discussing all the legal questions associated with accessing open WiFi, and concluding, basically, that it's an open question. Of course, some people have been having this discussion for years. In the end, the real question is what is being "lost" here. In most cases, absolutely nothing -- which is why it's hard to consider using an open WiFi access point as "theft." In fact, some (though, not many) ISPs consider it a good idea and downright neighborly. The actual laws on the matter are way too vague -- but looking at the reality of the situation should lead people to recognize that this is not theft at all.
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