UK ISP Claims It Will Disconnect Any Customers With Open WiFi

from the but-will-it-really? dept

Apparently the UK ISP Karoo has changed its terms of service to note that it will disconnect customers if it discovers they have an open WiFi access point. This isn’t all that surprising, though it isn’t particularly reasonable. When WiFi first came on the scene a few years back, there were a few ISPs that claimed the same thing — though their reasoning was that they were afraid people with open WiFi were illegally “sharing” the connection with neighbors. Hell, there were some ISPs that wanted to charge you per computer you connected to a broadband connection. However, as WiFi became common, most ISPs dropped those restrictions, so it is interesting to see them coming back. The reason for cutting off open WiFi users is unclear — and it’s likely that Karoo will claim security reasons — but TorrentFreak wonders if it has anything to do with the entertainment industry, which is sick of losing cases after people point out that, thanks to an open WiFi, it could be anyone that had used the connection. Either way, it seems like a good reason to find a new ISP, if your ISP is going to get involved in how you set up your local network.

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Companies: karoo

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Comments on “UK ISP Claims It Will Disconnect Any Customers With Open WiFi”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Pointless. This removes a useful service to neighbours (if you don’t get billed according to a bandwidth quota, many people don’t mind sharing their resources), yet does nothing for security.

Most people are going to choose the easiest to implement security method, which will be WEP – very easily cracked in a couple of minutes. More tech-savvy users will probably jump ship to a competitor who doesn’t try to tell people how they can use the service they’re paying for.

Lonnie E. Holder says:

Remember When...

AT&T charged for each telephone you had connected inside your house, a long time ago. Apparently they had some sort of current monitor that checked the draw when the phone rang. I suspect that phones that required you plug into an AC outlet messed their system up.

Later, cable television companies also charged for each television connected to cable, even if they were cable ready.

I am unaware of any companies that still do this in the United States.

Bill says:

Re: Remember When...

The phone company also takes offense when you use the phone jack to power lights when the power goes out.

Likewise, cable companies have taken offense when users add power adapters to boost the power (needed when splitting the line for extra connections).

I’m in the wrong country to be concerned about the actions of Karoo, but if it were being enforced by my ISP, I’d bail and find another ISP. Whether it’s your phone, cable line or broadband connection…what you do with it once it’s on your property is your business.

Sean says:

Re: Re: Eh

I don’t know what world you live in, but I don’t think you can really claim once it’s on your property, it’s your business. Does this mean you can dig up cable because it’s on your property? And does this crazy belief also convince you that illegal file sharing/under age porn (sorry to go there) would be legal because it was done on your property?

You are maintaining a very aggressive and silly belief of possession of a service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Remember When...

They measured ringer load, so if you added a second phone but disconnected the ringer (which was a coil operated solenoid) on it, that phone would not be detected.
When phones with electronic ringers, and electronic phones that needed a current draw to operate came along, detection was not that easy anymore.
It is likely the inability to detect the number of phones accurately and enforce the rule is what made it go away.

interval says:

Although heavy handed- I don’t particularly care for ANY entity that I am a customer of telling me my business OR ELSE- I do believe isp customers should secure their wifi access points, for a variety of reasons, and only a few of them have anything to do with my duty as a customer to my isp. Rather than the stick approach maybe they would do better to use a carrot first. Maybe offer to have a support technician work with them to secure the ap over the phone before the threats.

Devil's Advocate says:

I have a different theory as to the reason (not that the “movie industry is manipulating ISPs to help them stop pirating” theory isn’t charming) –
When an ISP sells you a certain internet connection package they can rarely maintain the promised connection speed 100%. This has a lot to do with the statistics of popular Quality of Service technics. To cut a long story short, they simply can’t provide 100% of the bandwith to 100% of the costumers 100% of the time.
Now when people use up your extra bandwith that you wouldn’t otherwise use, you’re basically “demanding” the promised connection speed more of the time. So they’re not trying to help you or anyone else (what’s in it for them?) – they simply want to keep their current pricing scheme where you pay for something you can’t actually get, in a world where mobile phones, subnotebooks, etc’ are making WiFi demand more taxing on them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I understand what you’re saying, but I doubt it. For ISP purposes, there’s little difference between a person who has a neighbour accessing their router because it’s unlocked and the guy who has his router locked down with his computer set to download torrents 24/7, or has 7 devices in his home accessing at once.

No, the only way in which this makes any sense is to remove the “it wasn’t me” excuse when somebody’s “caught” downloading (I put caught in quotes because the evidence in such cases is pitifully weak and proves nothing to anyone technically minded). Since ISPs are being pressured to implement a 3 strikes rule, this rule is being put into place to pre-empt the inevitable “my router was unlocked, I had no idea what was going on” defense, true or not.

Andy Fore (user link) says:

I am not sure that I agree with the method that the ISP is choosing, but I personally feel that everyone should have secured WiFi if they are going to have it. Sure it is nice to be able to mooch off someone else’s bandwidth, but I don’t want other people using a service that I am paying for.

How many of you people saying that this is bad would appreciate your neighbor using the service of your electrical outlets and running up your power bill?

Celes says:

Re: Re:

If my neighbor asks first, in all likelihood I would have no problem with it. What I would have a problem with is the power company cutting off my electricity because I allowed someone else to use it.

Even worse would be cutting off my electricity because I have an exterior outlet that isn’t locked – after all, regardless of whether anyone actually has used it, theoretically they could (which is a bit more like the case in discussion).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Sure it is nice to be able to mooch off someone else’s bandwidth, but I don’t want other people using a service that I am paying for.

I hope you have very heavy curtains on your windows. Otherwise someone might mooch off the light shining out at night. I’m sure you wouldn’t want that to happen since you paid for the electricity. Selfish child.

How many of you people saying that this is bad would appreciate your neighbor using the service of your electrical outlets and running up your power bill?

That’s a good example. As long as I’m paying for it I don’t want the electric company telling me what I can and can’t do with my electricity. If I want to invite a neighbor over and let him plug his laptop computer, for example, into one of my electric outlets I should be able to do so.

Anonymous Coward #42 says:

This has nothing to do with security whatsoever, but everything to do with greed. Just like Mike said, they used to try to charge you per computer (or rather per IP address), but gave up when home broadband routers hid the actual number of machines by using only one public IP address. Now they don’t want you “sharing” your WiFi with others, because those are potential customers that they’re losing money on.

To be honest, I can sort of sympathize with their point of view. If you provided an unlimited supply of, say, candy to one person for a a flat rate per month, and they in turn hand out that candy to a whole bunch of their friends, you would seriously be losing money on the deal, because it’s costing you more to fulfill the one contract, and you’re not getting anymore contracts because the other people are getting the candy for free.

While I don’t think it’s right to charge per computer, I do think that restricting one service subscription to a single household is a reasonable request. However, I also think that such a request should be stated clearly in the terms of service, and should be subject to the honor system, not buried in the fine print and litigated over. When you tell people not to do something, they just want to do it all the more. On the other hand if you tell them to do something (secure their access point), and explain the benefits of doing so (keep hackers out), then people will be much more likely to oblige. THAT is the way to handle this situation.

As for enforcement of the no-unsecure-wifi rule, the only way I could think of for them to enforce it would be to basically start wardriving, running around neighborhoods with wireless antennas looking for open access points. However, even that isn’t foolproof, because it’s difficult to figure out exactly which household an open signal is coming from, and I’m willing to bet that such an endeavor would cost far more than what they’re potentially using by people having open access points. If they try and come up with some silly utility that you have to run to see what kind of connection you’re on, I can guarantee they’re going to have a lot of people canceling service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Seeing Who the Customer is

Anonymous Coward #42 asks how you tell who an open WiFi Access Point belongs to. The answer is that if it is open, you can either poll the Web Interface of the AP or just connect to it, get assigned a LAN address and ask for the WAN facing IPN. Looking up who is currently DHCP assigned that IPN will tell the ISP who the customer is.

Bill says:

Your strawman is on fire....

RE: Andy Fore

You analogy is completely flawed.

I don’t let my neighbors use my electricity because I pay by the kwh, and it would cost me more.

You are not entitled to tell me I have to lock up my resources. You can certainly do as you wish with yours.

My bandwidth during any given minute of the day is limited only by my connection speed, anything I don’t use up to that limit is WASTED and I can never recover it, it’s GONE. _I_paid_for_it_, but I lost it to disuse.

Allowing my friends or whoever to use what I am not using so that it does not go to waste is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am not sure that I agree with the method that the ISP is choosing, but I personally feel that everyone should have secured WiFi if they are going to have it. Sure it is nice to be able to mooch off someone else’s bandwidth, but I don’t want other people using a service that I am paying for.

That’s all very well, if people are doing it accidentally.

I appreciate being able to access Wifi when I’m out with my laptop, so I do others the same courtesy, why shouldn’t I? Because you don’t want people mooching off my service? I’ve paid for it, and if the ISP isn’t happy with the bandwidth being used, perhaps they shouldn’t offer unlimited bandwidth.

I’m not with this company, but if I was I’d be quite glad if they cut me off, so I could find a more reasonable ISP without paying an early-termination charge.

another mike says:

the way it is

Cox Cable doesn’t allow open wifi access points in their “high speed” internet TOS. And the city made wardriving illegal, too. My feeling? Well if you got caught you must’ve been doing something wrong.
I have my network’s wifi secured; I started at WPA2, but now have user and machine authentication (radius ftw!).
I also have an open AP in the DMZ (so visitors can’t see the rest of the network); it’s a low-power ‘b’ antenna on the most crowded channel. I put on a DNS trap that sends new devices to a click-through page: “This connection is low bandwidth, high latency, insecure, and sometimes unavailable for no particular reason. I can read the traffic you send and I like flipping the power switch just for the heck of it. Click here to continue.”

Joe says:

All of you who say “I paid for it so I should be able to share it” are idiots. First of all, almost no ISP is selling you an unlimited connection. They choose the price they sell it for based on what “normal” user consumption is. When you have an open wifi connection, the usage can go way up. Second, the paper you signed most likely says it’s againt their terms to share the connection. Lastly, it is a huge liability unless you know exactly what the people who are connecting to your access point are doing. Otherwise the creep downloading child porn is gonna get YOUR ASS thrown in court.

I do agree that all ISP’s should switch to metered billing. That would solve all the problems. Then it’s technically in their interest for you to share it as they make more.

Celes says:

Re: Re:

That depends on whether ISPs could come up with a reasonable pricing structure for metered usage; unfortunately, due to a general tendency on the part of any company to overvalue anything it provides, it would probably end up being prohibitively expensive for even the average user, like many data plans provided for wireless phones. (Or maybe those are reasonable and I’m just poor – that’s completely possible.)

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