Open WiFi To Become A Liability In The UK Under Digital Economy Bill

from the unintended-consequences dept

Back in January, while in France, I experienced firsthand one of the “unintended consequences” of France rushing forwarding with a “three strikes” law that kicks people off the internet based on accusations (not convictions). Because of that, the idea of open WiFi is now pretty much gone (which, amusingly, was pissing off the very same music execs who were such big fans of the law). It seems that something similar might be happening in the UK, as the folks behind the much maligned Digital Economy Bill have admitted that there will be no exceptions for anyone operating an open WiFi network, even a library or a university. Thus, if a library had an open WiFi network, and it received a few accusations of file sharing, Peter Mandelson could decide to kick them off the internet for as long as he would like.

While it doesn’t technically “outlaw” open WiFi, it does put such a big liability on it that it leads to the same result. It effectively makes it so that no one, not even community organizations, will want to offer open WiFi. At a time when the UK government claims it’s trying to encourage greater connectivity, it seems pretty silly to put in place a law that could lead to exactly the opposite.

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Comments on “Open WiFi To Become A Liability In The UK Under Digital Economy Bill”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I think that the community organizations need to ban together and not lock up their WiFi, thus pretty much daring Mr. Mandelson to kick them off. Then see if he takes the bait. I wonder if he could outlast the the public outcry, the media attention, and the general public lynching that would follow.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I wonder if he could outlast the the public outcry, the media attention, and the general public lynching that would follow.”

The MSM is corrupt, they pretty much ignore the situation thanks to bogus laws that enable them to monopolize the airwaves and infrastructure hence effectively ensuring that this stuff gets censored.

mike allen (profile) says:

Re: Free but not Open WiFi

Dont know where you live but our council actively encourage open wi-fi with the library city hall theatre and a vast number of public and businesses places including the reception of our local radio station. offering open wi-fi at the request ( and in some cases payment by city hall). in fact it is so well covered that the city centre is more or less blanketed. + machine boothes in other places with a USB port for a memory stick.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Time to kick the bums out

It’s time that we (the people who elected these pinheads) fired their asses and threw them out of office in favor of folks who know how the internet works, or should work. At the very least this sort of poorly thought out legislation is indicative of even deeper problems, such as are showing up in the not so gradual erosion of our general rights.

Dom S (profile) says:

the funny thing is...

BT (i.e. British Telecom) have been forcing their customers to have open wifi on their wireless routers, the BT Homehub, for ages. its labelled as “BT Openzone” or “BT FON”

my homehub broadcasts a signal labelled “BT Openzone” and/or (i forget) “BT FON” which is a pay for use open wifi signal that anyone can get onto if they are willing to pay a small fee to use it. I have been informed that the reason for this is to promote open wifi throughout the country (mostly residential and commercial areas) and create a system whereby if you have paid the fee, your wifi device will switch between the available openzone-supporting hubs automatically when your signal strength changes. or something similar… :-S

it sounds like this will be a big problem for BT although im unsure as to what the IP address situation is (i.e. if you get your own IP if you connect to openzone or if they give you the same IP as the hub owner)

either way it sounds like BT will be forced to remove this or ensure their homehub users are not adversely affected by openzone signals and the potential for illegal downloading.

as a sidenote, it’s difficult to remove this option from the homehub. you have to de-register yourself from the option to have it included and apparently they stop the signal going from your hub. not sure HOW they do this but i assume its a custom firmware change for those who remove the openzone “option”.
annoyingly, if i turn the wifi signal off altogether, openzone still broadcasts which is a little wierd.

as a disgruntled (im sure im not alone) BT customer, its very annoying to think that any idiot can get online via my homehub and rape my bandwidth when i never agreed to this in the first place. especially when BT FON is detailed in the small print of the contract and was never disclosed when i went through the sign-up process. im also a little concerned about the infringement possibility.

here is the link to the BT FON info page –

domo_sy2001 (profile) says:

Re: Re: the funny thing is...

interesting, when i turn off openzone, BT FON still runs (they’re almost the same thing).

if i turn off the wifi, openzone AND BT FON still run.

glad to hear that there are separate IPs but im still not entirely happy about sharing bandwidth. although saying that, im on the third floor of my house and we either have lead-lined walls or wifi signals are rubbish because you cant get a wifi signal in the downstairs rooms… outside the front is another matter

david (profile) says:

Hmm, I wonder...

I wonder who gets to make the allegations? On the assumption that networked photocopiers/laser-printers can be found infringing (Would You Believe Copyright Infringement Notices Are Based On Faulty Information?), I imagine that there is the (good) chance that an IP address in the Houses of Parliament could be found to be downloading torrents. Certainly if the French government, under Sarkozy, is anything to go by…

Could we get the Houses of Parliament/the British Government suspended from the internet? =)

domo_sy2001 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

umm i would but… as per my above comment, EVEN if i do turn off the normal wifi, BT have a signal being broadcast all the time which i need to “opt-out” of. ive tried but for some reason my BT login details dont work on the BT FON website.

just as an additional thought… If i own an iphone and a netbook and neither have a wired network card, turning off the wifi would not help me it would just prevent me from using my internet on my devices.

not exactly a “simple fix” to turn it off as im sure there are people out there who dont have wired networking built in to all of their network(ed) devices.

yozoo says:

Re: and SO it BEGINS

How is a facebook group going to derail ACTA? If you really want to derail it you need money, lots and lots and lots of money. In politics, like pretty much everywhere else, whoever spends the most money usually wins and supporters of ACTA have a big spending headstart on you already.

Anonymous Coward says:

“which, amusingly, was pissing off the very same music execs who were such big fans of the law”

I hope these execs realize the public harm they cause just to promote their selfishness. They only care about the harm these laws cause when it affects them negatively, otherwise they could care less. Then again, these executives probably don’t follow most of the IP (and other bogus) laws they pass.

Anonymous Coward says:

Whos an ISP?

Under this bill, in order to classified as an ISP then your main business has to be that of providing Internet service. I’m guessing that would be based on income. Now based on that, I’m not even sure that a lot of companies that are now considered ISPs would qualify.

For example, if BT’s telecom operations brought in more income than it’s Internet operations, then it would no longer be considered an ISP. Then all it would take is 3 accusations against some of its customers for BT itself to be cut off from the Internet (since they wouldn’t qualify for the ISP exemption). Of course, I’m sure they’re planning to use selective enforcement so that that would never happen to BT.

Lou Nisbet (profile) says:

Open WiFi

There is a simple answer that defeats ALL this red tape. Leave your wifi unprotected. As anyone can connect no one can prove who is responsible – unless they’re using a credit card. The defence lawyers will have a field day with this.
The BT network thing mentioned already partially defeats this ridiculous and completely ignorant attempt to censor the net. When WILL the idiots learn that’s never going to work.

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