Misleading WiFi Backlash Stories – And Some Clueful Responses

There are many clueless stories about wireless technologies out there – and two of the most popular with regards to WiFi are to (a) talk about how its security is weak and therefore no one should use it and (b) talk about how no one is paying for commercial hotspots, and thus WiFi is going nowhere. Thankfully, there’s a growing number of people taking on these misconceptions with smart analysis. Glenn Fleishman has now trashed two separate articles on these topics, and I’ll add a bit of commentary here for those of you who might not read his excellent site. First, he picks up on Cory Doctorow’s analysis of a dreadful Washington Post piece about WiFi security. The Post piece is basically a copy of a similar recent hack job in the NY Times going on and on about (oooh, scary) open WiFi access points. First off, just because a WiFi network is open, doesn’t mean that it’s dangerous – there are plenty of completely legitimate reasons to leave an access point open. Just because someone can use it for questionable purposes, doesn’t mean it’s the fault of open WiFi – and more than it’s the fault of the (gasp!) “open internet”. The second piece is from Newsweek, misinterpreting some recent studies that extrapolates the commercial WiFi business and predicts that it’s a bubble that’s going to burst. Sure, as we’ve explained here way too many times, being in the commercial hotspot business where you’re trying to nickle-and-dime everyone is a tough business to be in. It’s been that way from the beginning. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for hotspots. Plenty of stories have shown that offering free hotspots has a positive return both from (a) increasing the location’s primary business (usually selling food) and (b) letting employees be more efficient. It’s depressing when you see so many reporters and analysts who can only think one-dimensionally.

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