Now Cantennas Are Illegal Too? Why Don't They Just Outlaw WiFi?

from the says-who-exactly? dept

Is it really so much to ask to have people who are making and enforcing laws concerning technology actually understand the technology they're dealing with? Following the series of recent arrests of people for using open WiFi networks, the definition of illegal equipment is being stretched. In the UK arrest, the guy was arrested for "possessing equipment for fraudulent use of a communications service," which all of us who have WiFi in our laptops probably are guilty of. At least that's just in the UK. Over here in the US it's apparently still legal to have WiFi equipment -- but if you dare try to boost your signal with an antenna, watch out. According to the head of the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force, the popular "cantenna" device is completely illegal. For those who don't know, someone a while back worked out that you could boost the range of your WiFi router with a Pringle's can. It requires a bit of work, so a small operation sprung up to sell Cantennas. They're quite popular with people who want to spread WiFi around a house where the basic router won't reach certain parts of it. Hell, even CompUSA sells them! But, according to this "high tech" police officer: "They're unsophisticated but reliable, and it's illegal to possess them." The article includes a story about how the police arrested a high school student for breaking into his school's network to change his grades and they (gasp!) found a cantenna in his room! Again, the crime he committed has nothing to do with having an antenna booster, but that doesn't stop the reporter and the cop from talking about the evils of connecting to WiFi networks.

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  1. identicon
    NC, 25 Jul 2005 @ 12:40pm

    Cantenna is not illegal.

    I haven't read any of the other comments on this article, but all anyone needs to do to determine the legality of the cantenna is read the FCC Part 15 rules on operation in license-exempt spectrum. Local law enforcement has no right to determine someone's guilt based on the posession of an antenna. If posessing a cantenna is illegal, then any other antenna permitted by FCC standards would be illegal too. The only way a cantenna would be illegal is if someone was using it to interfere with someone else's licensed network. As we all know, wi-fi operates in unlicensed spectrum. It is the responsibility of the owner of the network to properly secure it and understand that others can interfere with it and receive their signal.

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