Free rider.

One of my neighbors in my building set up a wireless base station last week. They have an Adelphia cable modem that is obscenely fast — I’m accustomed to 38kbps downloads, and this connection is closer to 380kbps. The signal is excellent, so they’re plainly within an apartment or two of me. I’m torn — I can use this wireless connection in place of my own wireless Internet connection, or I can use my own. The question, of course, is the intention of the owner of this wide-open Internet connection. Have they left their network open because they would like to share it? Or have they do so out of mere inexperience? (The base station is named, tellingly, “linksys,” rather than something more sensible, like “Kabumpo,” the name of mine. OK, so perhaps “sensible” was not the best word.)

At the moment, I’m using it when I need to download a very large file, though with a certain measure of guilt. I imagine that the most sensible thing to do would be to warwalk around the building until I get a really good signal, and then knock on that door. Then, I can tell them that their network is open and ask permission. A somewhat less sensible thing to do would be to leave a system on the network over the course of some hours with a sniffer installed until I can get an e-mail address, and contact them like such.

Either way, I think that I’m going to leave a connection open in Blacksburg. There’s no public 802.11b downtown, so I figure that I can offer that to make up for my bandwidth-hopping indiscretions.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »