EFF Reminds Us That Open WiFi Isn't A Bad Thing... And Should Actually Be Encouraged

from the help-out dept

We've had plenty of stories concerning open WiFi, and there seems to be a general opinion among some that open WiFi is "a bad thing." Some have even tried (and failed) to argue that having an open WiFi network makes you negligent. In some areas, law enforcement has even gone around telling people to lock up their WiFi. Those who argue against open WiFi are generally conflating different issues. It is true that if you use an open WiFi network without securing yourself you do open up yourself to snooping from others. Similarly, if others are using your open WiFi, it it could lead to at least an investigation if your access point is used for nefarious purposes. But combining those to claim that open WiFi itself is bad or illegal is a mistake. It is entirely possible to secure your own activities, and to set up an open WiFi network in a reasonable manner that minimizes any such threat.

The EFF and others have been trying to remind people that there are also tremendous benefits to open WiFi in increasing connectivity for everyone. As part of this, they've launched the Open Wireless Movement encouraging people to purposely leave their WiFi networks open (and to take appropriate security precautions). They're pointing out that especially in times of crisis, such open networks can be tremendously useful.

The Open Wireless Movement envisions a world where people readily have access to open wireless Internet connections—a world where sharing one's network in a way that ensures security yet preserves quality is the norm. Much of this vision is attainable now. In fact, many people have routers that already feature "guest networking" capabilities. To make this even easier, we are working with a coalition of volunteer engineers to build technologies that would make it simple for Internet subscribers to portion off their wireless networks for guests and the public while maintaining security, protecting privacy, and preserving quality of access. And we're working with advocates to help change the way people and businesses think about Internet service.

We're also teaching the world about the many benefits of open wireless in order to help society move away from closed networks and to a world in which open access is the default. We are working to debunk myths (and confront truths) about open wireless while creating technologies and legal precedent to ensure it is safe, private, and legal to open your network.

Hopefully we can finally get past the myth that open WiFi is automatically bad and get people moving towards a better understanding of how to use the internet safely while still offering up open access in a reasonable manner.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 7:30am

    Tough

    I am not opening my WI-FI for all and sundry to use and abuse. I will keep changing my encryption codes and I will certainly keep SSID broadcasting turned off.

    My bandwidth is for ME.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 7:49am

    Open here...

    At the moment, I've got two DSL lines, 5 wifi routers, and 4 different SSIDs.

    One DSL line is for work, and hsa a single (work-provisioned) router on it, and a single WPA2-encrypted SSID.

    The other DSL line is for personal use, and since I have yet to wire up my new house, I had to deploy 4 separate wifi routers throughout the house to provide sufficient connectivity. I have a hidden WDS SSID to connect them, a visible encrypted SSID I use for all my devices, and a separate public open SSID for guest usage. All of the routers I use are dd-wrt capable, so this is rather easy to setup and configure.

    If I run into any bandwidth issues down the road, I'll just setup some QoS throttling if I must - but where I live there aren't enough people that I'm worried about it.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 7:53am

    Re: Tough

    This, ever so hard. I have crap enough bandwidth as is (thanks, Comcast!) to the point where I have throttled any DL'ing services I have down to 700 kbps, yet still have to stop them all if I want to stream anything and have it clearer than an 8-bit video game. The last thing I need is to have some idiot in apartment 4b deciding he can save a few bucks a month and leach off of my connection.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:00am

    It's much safer to have an open wireless router at a business -- not a residence. The last thing you ever want to do is attract the attention of police. Do you really want to be awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of a swat team smashing into your house and shooting your dog?

     

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  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:07am

    This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    After a couple twists, that's what's meant by "safe". Current gadgets with their defaults aren't; the gadgets are made that way for the Windows world. So EFF is at most pushing for an easy set-up method that still bars access to main machines, which I could be for except doesn't at all solve actual problems with those who might use your connection for illegal activity.

    But gotta admire the "especially in times of crisis" line that they stole from ham radio geezers, when in fact, that's almost never been useful even with ham radio.

    And Mike, "there seems to be a general opinion among some"? Whatever notion you had there is watered down twice: just shorten it to "SOME".

    And "Some have even tried (and failed) to argue": what you appear to mean is "failed to convince", as even a dog or Dick_Helmet can argue.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:09am

    Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    If you were sometimes intelligent, it would be more difficult to know for sure that it was safe to ignore you. Thank you for being consistent. It makes it much easier to click, "report" and just not bother reading anything you say or the replies to your obvious trolling.

     

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  7.  
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    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:12am

    Tugboat

    ...and certain lawyers still think that their clients' interest is an absolute treasure, fuck the other people.

    If things went Marc "Tugboat" Randazza's way, an irreparable harm to society would ensue.

     

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  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:15am

    Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    @"Anonymous Coward" = Mike's sock puppet.

    Excellent! This is a typical response as part of my purpose is to elicit here to demonstrate Techdirt's quality.

    Yes, just ignore me. That's all I ask. I put out my ideas and a bit of snark as occurs. And the ad hom just bursts out.

    You're obviously compelled to comment because you don't trust readers, and yet only point out my posts -- and the automatic "reporting" is just childish.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Gwiz, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:19am

    Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    But gotta admire the "especially in times of crisis" line that they stole from ham radio geezers, when in fact, that's almost never been useful even with ham radio.

    Never useful? Do you live under a rock?

    Tons of places in and around New York are offering open WiFi right now - so victims can let family in other parts of the world know they are OK:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/01/internet-service-new-york-hurricane-sandy_n_2057934. html

     

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  10.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    Not really liking automagic logout feature that keeps booting me this morning on Techdirt.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:24am

    Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    What's that you've got there? Evidence?!?

    Trolls find evidence to be indigestible, you're wasting your time attempting to feed that to it.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:24am

    Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    But gotta admire the "especially in times of crisis" line that they stole from ham radio geezers, when in fact, that's almost never been useful even with ham radio.

    It certainly does happen. Off the top of my head, I can remember at least one publicly reported instance in the last couple years in my area:

    http://www.saresrg.org/activations/gilroy_fiber.html

    Int he past, I've also been thankful to locate an open wifi router when I'm in need of looking something up on google maps in a remote location. I suppose "crisis" comes in all forms.

     

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  13.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:28am

    Open WIFI would work except ISP bandwidth and use restrictions

    Most ISPs are able to get away with throttling in the US today for those that are deemed (without any real stats) as using too much bandwidth.

    Open WiFi is a great idea but will not work within the current regulatory environment as all that would do is open up the person be helpful to possible legal action.

     

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  14.  
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    MrWilson, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    You are so full of self-importance. It's like the conspiracy nuts whose egos require them to concoct crazy theories because they must be so special as to have figured out the truth that no one else sees.

    You come here, troll, and then call community members sock puppets and childish when they react to your own childish outbursts and self-important, attention-begging trolling. There has to be some inherent deficiency in your psychological or emotional life for which I would recommend you seek help.

     

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  15.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:33am

    Re: Open WIFI would work except ISP bandwidth and use restrictions

    Just an adjunct to what I said above. If I pay for a 30Mb connection I should be able to use ever single bit of that bandwidth each and every second without any change to my bill.

     

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  16.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:36am

    Re: Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    Excellent! This is a typical response as part of my purpose is to elicit here to demonstrate Techdirt's quality.

    So you are trying to prove that Techdirt's "quality" is somehow lacking by posting incoherent rants? That only demonstrates the (low) quality of your comments, really.


    Yes, just ignore me. That's all I ask. I put out my ideas and a bit of snark as occurs. And the ad hom just bursts out.

    I usually do ignore you. I respond to you only when you post something so blatantly wrong that it needs to be corrected. You know - fighting incorrect speech with more speech. And you are one to talk when it comes to ad homs - you toss those out on a regular basis, which is just another reason to not take anything you say very seriously.


    @"Anonymous Coward" = Mike's sock puppet.

    You're obviously compelled to comment because you don't trust readers, and yet only point out my posts -- and the automatic "reporting" is just childish.


    Careful there Blue - your paranoia is showing. Are one of those guys who think Obama created Sandy to win the election?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:36am

    Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    Open/Closed is completely different from Firewalled. The fact that you and the rest of the generally uninformed public confuse the two is the reason I don't advocate leaving home routers 'open' in general. However for those that do understand the difference, I very much recommend setting up a secure wireless connection that is open to the public as a public service. As for liability, I have to believe the person performing the illicit activity, and those providing any 'illicit data' would be responsible. I would think it would be a stretch to try and hold someone providing public wifi access accountable for someone else's illicit actions, and the courts so far seem to agree.

     

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  18.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:37am

    Re: Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    "I put out my ideas"

    It would help if your ideas weren't a) wrong from a technical standpoint, b) phrased in the obnoxious way possible and c) littered with attacks on Mike and other regular posters. Seriously, 50% of those paragraphs contained attacks, and then you complain about being attacked in response?

    About the only thing correct about your initial post is "doesn't at all solve actual problems with those who might use your connection for illegal activity". That's correct because it's not even a consideration in the original point. Virtually every router can be used for illegal activity if someone with the desire and knowledge lives within sniffing distance - even if you're using WPA2 with a hidden SSID (are you the same AC who was convinced that WEP was secure a few years back?). That doesn't mean that those deliberately leaving it open are doing anything wrong, nor that it's not possible to filter traffic on an open network (e.g. blocking torrent traffic while allowing email) .

     

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  19.  
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    The eejit (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 9:05am

    Re: Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    No, I am Mike's sockpuppet account!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 9:15am

    Re: Re: Tough

    I've set up two wifi networks on my router, an open one, and a closed one. I then set up QOS such that anything on the closed network takes priority over the open one.

     

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  21.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    "Yes, just ignore me. That's all I ask."

    Well, thanks I guess for being brutally honest. From now on, whenever I see you comment, I'll just re-quote you here as to why you don't want intelligent discourse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 11:29am

    Re: Tough

    SSID has to be turned on for many devices to connect. How do you connect your devices if they cannot find your SSID?

    My cell phone would not be able to connect to my WiFi if I had SSID turned off

     

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  23.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 11:50am

    Re: Tough

    That's OK. I choose to do the opposite, so I'll cover your contribution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 11:50am

    I keep my WiFi open for the entire building where I live, its been really good as a community. The kids especially love it.

     

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  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 11:53am

    Re: Open WIFI would work except ISP bandwidth and use restrictions

    It's pretty easy to limit the amount of bandwidth the open portion of your Wifi can use, so this isn't really that big of an issue.

     

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  26.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re: Open WIFI would work except ISP bandwidth and use restrictions

    I agree. That this can't be done is outright fraud on the part of the providers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: Tough

    Most (if not all) devices allow you to manually enter a network.

     

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  28.  
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    Chilly8, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 12:19pm

    I have a guest Wifi here. But I alao have it filtered. I block porn, warez, gambling, dating, file sharing, social networking, and hate speech sites. I also block the whitehouse.gov website, so I don't have the secret service on my ass, should someone decide to to something nutty.

    I also have those blocked, becuase I also run a free proxy server so that "office drones" can bypass corporate firewalls and get internet radio at their desks, which is why I block those categories I mentioned. I block content that would be inappropriate for any office. I do this because I see nothing wrong with internet radio at work as long as your work is getting done.

     

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  29.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 12:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    People think Obama created Sandy? That's silly! Sandy came out of the blue. Heeeyyy, wait a minute....

     

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  30.  
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    Mike's Sockpuppet, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 12:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    Ahem.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: This just redefines "open" to mean "firewalled".

    You have openly admitted that you don't read the articles; you just come here to criticise. What else do you expect to be treated with, other than derision?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    coreyography, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 5:08pm

    I need immunity from the MafIAA

    I'd be happy to serve an open, partitioned, bandwidth-limited portion of my wifi (much easier to do with a quality open-source OS than with most crappy off-the-shelf router software). But I don't have the time or patience to deal with the RIAA/MPAA lawyers and their bogus legal action should someone use my open connection to do some torrenting. When the EFF is able to get laws passed that protect providers of open wifi (I know, they're trying), then I'll reconsider. Until then I can't rationally entertain it.

     

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  33.  
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    R.H. (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 5:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Tough

    I'm currently doing something similar but with only one router. I have a build of Tomato-USB installed on my E3000 that makes this simpler (not easy really) to do. I've limited the bandwidth of the open section to about 1/4th of my total available bandwidth and I've segregated it so that the open side can't access my computers or the router configuration pages (at least not by web or telnet I left ssh available just in case). I feel like I'm making a contribution while not adversely effecting my own network security.

     

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  34.  
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    R.H. (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 5:17pm

    Re: I need immunity from the MafIAA

    That's a bit of a worry for me but I'm comforted by the fact that, so far, the people who can show that their WiFi was open when the alleged infringing activity occurred have been able to end the proceedings against themselves.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 5:24pm

    Re: Tough

    I always keep my point open for others, does that make me a saint?

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:52pm

    you know there is always talk about bringing the internet to everyone this could be a good thing. If everyone was to leave their wifi open then everyone can be connected to the internet. The only thing is people will complain oh but it costs me so much for the service and i dont want otehr people using my bandwith. But now if the cost was cheaper then everyone can get a connection and theres more around to share and more people can pay for a connection

     

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  37.  
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    FM Hilton, Nov 3rd, 2012 @ 2:51am

    Open what?

    Sure, open Wi-fi is great for businesses. We should have it at all that can afford it.

    However, I'm not going to open my access point for everyone and his brother to surf the porn sites and link to them through my router, nor am I going to have the privilege of having hackers constantly attack my router (as they tend to do just for fun).

    When you pay for it every month, you don't want to share it with everyone who doesn't have the same viewpoint: paying for access.

    There is no such thing as a free lunch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    btrussell (profile), Nov 3rd, 2012 @ 3:36am

    Funny, strangers won't lend me their cell phone for a day or two at a time.



    Strike six for your IP address!

     

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  39.  
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    Mike (profile), Nov 3rd, 2012 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Tough

    OK, I've wanted to do exactly what you've described for quite a while.

    I've just never had the energy/time to figure out what I needed to implement it.

    It does seem that I would need a router that is supported by one of the alternate router software projects such as Tomato, dd-wrt, others I can't think of. And then I have to make sure that all the original features of the router that I need are still supported (in particular 1000Base-T routing).

    If there were a site that walked through the various options to do this on different routers it would be great!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Nov 3rd, 2012 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Tough

    I use ddwrt, and this is the process I used, more or less.

    http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Separate_WLANs

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    IrishDaze (profile), Nov 3rd, 2012 @ 5:25pm

    Re: Re: Open WIFI would work except ISP bandwidth and use restrictions

    Yes, but what can't be limited is the amount of data others use. Roommate and I are stuck on a low-speed DSL connection in a 40 year old building with a nightmarishly low 2-gig data cap. I also work from home. As it is, I get poor-connection warnings on the corporate laptop whenever the roommate streams Netflix. I just can't take the chance that others will kill my cap or suck what little bandwidth I have. As much as I firmly believe I sharing the connection as well :-/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    christian, Jan 31st, 2013 @ 1:14am

    Response to: Chilly8 on Nov 2nd, 2013 @ 12:19pm

    i want to become a member of illuminita

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    anonymous, May 24th, 2013 @ 9:06am

    Bad idea

    If all of the bandwidth in the world was shared, people wouldn't have space for larger downloads because it would ALL be choked by EVERYONE. I like to download and watch videos and I like them quick.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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