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scrottie (4167)


My email address is Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Thursday August 23, 2007
01:18 PM

"Is stealing wireless wrong?" needs to go away

[ #34195 ]

Okay, so now I'm wasting all of my time reading Reddit. Thanks.

Ref ...

Let's try to put this in perspective.

Originally, the 'net was a few educational and research sites. But soon afterwards, it was many educational sites, and the 'net was built out largely by splitting off blocks of IPs and running a connection over to somewhere else, sharing some of your bandwidth. In the mid 1990s, the University of Minnesota had the only T1 into town. Governmental agencies were connected through them, and they started reselling it. For years, connecting other people using your connection has been how the 'net was built.

Based on this model, a whole mess of mom-and-pop ISPs sprung up, buying a 64k line or a T1 and reselling it. They catered to their advanced users because they were the majority and, for modest fees, accomodated requests such as static IPs or delegating reverse DNS for that IP. So these guys would be buying from someone else, like the University of Minnesota, selling it to you, and you'd put your whole company on a dial-up line and then set up some dial-ups for employees to connect to from home, and this was fine, good, and expected.

A few short years ago, in the late 1990s, the cable providers that were really just springing up decided that you couldn't share your connection at all. They weren't just providing you with bandwidth but somehow owned the Internet and could tell you what you could and couldn't do with it. One of the things you couldn't do, according to them, was connect more than one computer. If you had a LAN, they wanted you to buy cable Internet for *each* computer -- as if. But people set up Linux and BSD nats, and before long, commercial connection sharing devices came along.

When it came out, cable was seen as junky, second rate Internet access. Running IP over the cable network seemed like a kludge, the cable "modems" were big and klunky, and the cable companies just had the wrong background -- they were people who pushed content and decided what you would see, and they just didn't understand the idea of a peer based network. Yes, hosts on the Internet are *peers* -- if you have an IP address, you can run whatever type of server software you want, as well as connecting to servers on other machines. And worse, they blocked a whole bunch of ports, scanned you, and wrote you nasty letters if they caught you trying to run your own damn incoming mail server, like that's really going to hurt them. But then people got used to it, forgot about, and then the major DSL providers decided it would be a good idea for them to "own" your Internet, too. While the port scanning, nasty letters, and port blocking has been scaled back a bit, the telling you what you're allowed to do with your 'net connection and generally acting like they own the fucking thing has continued. ISDN was going nowhere fast, though.

Then WiFi happened, slowly at first. Sites were connecting using directional antennas and 802.11a radios. The tech got cheaper, and it was a neat but expensive toy for lighting up campus squares, and then before long, every office and home seemed to have the gear. And, of course, at first, you weren't permitted to attach any sort of WiFi to your cable or DSL connection. Sometimes they'd even come around and check and make an example of you if they found you.

So, here's what I make of this. People have a choice. We can decide that the 'net is something that we build, own, and share, and the point of the thing is just to be able to connect to each other over a neutral network that's all of ours. The name "the Internet" is besuiting such a network. For ages, it was heraloded as being "self policing", before it became big business. But it still has standards bodies and conventions suiting a peer network, like the robots.txt exclusion format, designed to keep all of the peers happy with each other.

Or, we can decide that the Internet is commercial property. In this world is peering disputes, throttling or blocking access to competition, terms of service, snooping, stiffling innovation, and so on. But most of all, you're a consumer, or a subscriber... a user. The money you pay isn't for their peering centers, the bandwidth, the local loop, or anything -- you're paying for content, content which just happens to be being made freely available by people dumb enough to still think of the 'net as a peer based network. Free content, as well as access to commercial services. Incidentally, this is what AOL, GEnie, Prodigy, etc used to be -- you paid for access to some badly collected free content and a whole lot of commercial services, each of which was extra. I think accessing the World Book encylopedia had a $5/minute added fee, back when $5 was worth something.

So, which is it? Subscription data service with access fees and central authorities who poutily look after their own interests and no one elses?
Do we imitate and therefore enable these people? Or do we continue to spread, build, and share the 'net, seeing each host on it as a peer who potentially has much to contribute, seeing other people as peers, whose access we sometimes use and sometimes use ours?

So, if you don't want to share, set a damn password.


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  • So, if you don't want to share, set a damn password.

    That doesn't mean jack. It is illegal period. If you don't have permission of some sort to use it; don't fricken use it.

    • If you don't have permission of some sort to use it; don't fricken use it.

      A good point, but a logical argument can be made that an open wireless access point constitutes 'permission of some sort'. Every WAP sold for the last several years comes with instructions on how to secure it. Another way to look at it is that if you don't put a fence up around your property, how can you expect outsiders to respect your property boundaries?

      Now the fence analogy is not completely relevant here since the closer yo