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
    A. George Gavalas, 25 Feb 2006 @ 3:01pm

    FCC Part 15 states clearly

    The FCC states clearly that if ANY device, radio or antenna, is built at home without it being built from a kit, it is legal so long as no more than 5 are built, it doesn't impede against safety (i.e. doesn't interfere with a hospital or airport/airbase), and they aren't sold. If it is built from a kit, the kit has to adhere to part 15, but all cantenna kits in MAJOR stores do adhere to these rules. There is nothing illegal about an external antenna for broadcast or receiving. IN FACT, the fcc makes it clear that so long as it doesn't exceed 30 meters or infringe upon safety, it is the responsibility of the offended party, not the offending, to rectify the issue, whether it be to lock down their internet access, get more powerful antennas to provide access to themselves, or whatever other impedence someone may cause. Local law enforcement needs to become more educated on the laws as they stand. This is a grey area to most, but the law is basically the same in every state, not that which state matters. If they try to say using the bandwidth is illegal, then crossing state lines to view a website makes it a federal case bound by federal law. Under fedreal law, like physical property, if you don't post a no trespassing sign, you don't have a fence, and you don't ask them to leave, you can't arrest someone for being on your property so long as they don't take anything. Allowing them an ip address through your dhcp server and having no encryption or captive portal in place is legally granting them access to use your bandwidth under federal laws.

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