Is It Possible To Salvage Open WiFi?
from the would-be-nice dept
The folks at the EFF are trying to salvage the idea of open WiFi by kicking off a call for an Open Wireless Movement. To make this work, they note that the two key reasons why people encrypt their WiFi is so that (1) they don't have all their bandwidth sucked up by others and (2) to avoid security issues with unencrypted content being accessible to others on the network. Rather than using that as an excuse for saying everyone should lock down their WiFi, the EFF suggests making a WiFi system that can remain open while solving both those issues:
The best solution to this problem is to have WiFi routers which make it very easy to share a certain amount of bandwidth via an open network, but simultaneously provide an encrypted WPA2 network that gets priority over the open network. Some modern routers already support multiple networks like this, but we need a very simple, single-click or default setting to get the prioritization right.But, overall, the proposal is to push for people to recognize that open WiFi isn't evil and often has tremendous benefits:
There is currently no WiFi protocol that allows anybody to join the network, while using link-layer encryption to prevent each network member from eavesdropping on the others. But such a protocol should exist. There are some technical details to work through, but they are manageable.
Most of us have had the experience of tremendous inconvenience because of a lack of Internet access. Being lost in a strange place with no way to find a map; having an urgent email to send with no way to do so; trying to meet a friend with no way to contact them. Even if we have data plans for our mobile phones, we've probably had these experience in cities or countries where our phones don't have coverage or don't have coverage for less-than-extortionate prices. We may even experience this problem at home, when our Internet connection dies while we urgently need to use it.To be honest, I doubt this will get that much traction. There just aren't enough reasons for people to purposely leave their WiFi open, no matter how nice it would be. Combine that with more modern wide-area wireless networks, and this becomes less and less of an issue.
Finding yourself in one of these binds is a bit like finding yourself parched and thirsty while everyone around you is sipping from nice tall glasses of iced water, or finding yourself cold and drenched in a rain storm because nobody will let you under their umbrella. At those moments when you are lost, or missing a deadline, or failing to meet your friend, it is almost always true that Internet data links are traveling through your body in the form of electromagnetic wireless signals -- it's just that people have chosen to lock those networks so that you can't make use of them.