A Public Official Actually Shows Common Sense in Wireless 'Piggybacking' Debate

from the we're-shocked dept

A state legislature has apparently introduced legislation that would make it a crime punishable by up to three years in jail to "steal" a neighbor's open wireless connection (found via Slashdot). The legislator claims that his goal in passing this legislation is to "clarify intentional theft vs. accidental use." Amazingly, someone in the Maryland government actually has some common sense. The state's public defender's office filed a statement making the same point that we've been making for years: "A more effective way to prevent unauthorized access would be for owners' (sic) to secure their wireless networks with assistance where necessary from Internet service providers or Vendors." Aside from the typo, we couldn't have put it better ourselves. They also point out that it won't always be easy to know if a particular user's usage of a wireless network is "intentional" or not because many non-technical users have no idea which network their computers are contacting. And, of course, some people leave their WiFi connections open on purpose. It seems better to err on the side of caution and not threaten people with multi-year jail terms for something that's basically harmless. The police certainly have more important things to be worrying about.

Filed Under: freeloaders, maryland, open access, piggybacking, wifi


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  1. identicon
    Ray, 21 Mar 2008 @ 11:39am

    What it's really about...

    This proposed law, like many others is not about protecting the public or the rights of citizens; it's simply about a new revenue stream. I sincerely doubt there would ever really be jail time for this issue but I can guarantee there will be fines...paid to your friendly neighborhood government. As if they need more of our money to waste.

    Do you really think anyone is saved from harm by punishing someone for WiFi piggybacking? I know of no one with high speed access that has metered usage. If it's out there it's exceedingly rare. There are no quantifiable damages to hang a civil suit on, unless you are the ISP who isn't getting the neighbors money for another underutilized bandwidth pipeline into their home. Basically the neighbor is just taking advantage of the stupidity of the owner of the WiFi network and unused bandwidth that would otherwise be wasted.

    It's time to point out the emperor's nudity. Like many of the arbitrary traffic laws, speed traps, speed cameras, radar, lidar and red light cameras; it's all about the money. Time and time again, statistics and studies prove that public safety or security is not served by these measures. But they make great revenue streams for the government.

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