Wi-Fi: Sharing, Piggybacking and the legal implications

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Lately, there has been a lot of discussion on Wi-Fi access sharing. This is not a new topic but it has probably found a new life with FON building a business model around people sharing their Wi-Fi access and FON getting major funding from both Skype and Google. I probably have to thank Martin Varsavsky for all the press and blog coverage it is generating and the material I can use in my research.Lock

Since I am still in the middle of my Wi-Fi survey (you should take it if you haven’t done so already) that focuses on these issues of sharing, usability and legal implications, I won’t comment on the topic now but just provide some pointers and “interesting” quotes. I am also preparing a case study on FON, big municipal Wi-Fi initiatives like San Francisco TechConnect and the likes.
It is amazing what people will say to defend one or the other position of this topic. Especially the analogies!

From the New York Times story titled Hey Neighbor, Stop Piggybacking on My Wireless (Mar 5th 2006)

For a while, the wireless Internet connection Christine and Randy Brodeur installed last year seemed perfect. They were able to sit in their sunny Los Angeles backyard working on their laptop computers.

But they soon began noticing that their high-speed Internet access had become as slow as rush-hour traffic on the 405 freeway.

“I didn’t know whether to blame it on the Santa Ana winds or what,” recalled Mrs. Brodeur, the chief executive of Socket Media, a marketing and public relations agency.

The “what” turned out to be neighbors who had tapped into their system.

(…)

But they soon began noticing that their high-speed Internet access had become as slow as rush-hour traffic on the 405 freeway.

“I didn’t know whether to blame it on the Santa Ana winds or what,” recalled Mrs. Brodeur, the chief executive of Socket Media, a marketing and public relations agency.

The “what” turned out to be neighbors who had tapped into their system.

(…)

Many home network owners admit that they are oblivious to piggybackers.

Some, like Marla Edwards, who think they have locked intruders out of their networks, learn otherwise. Ms. Edwards, a junior at Baruch College in New York, said her husband recently discovered that their home network was not secure after a visiting friend with a laptop easily hopped on.

“There’s no gauge, no measuring device that says 48 people are using your access,” Ms. Edwards said.

(…)

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Wi-Fi Survey – How do you use Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) technology?

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OSU Wi-Fi Survey: How do you use wireless Internet

As part of the research project for my master, I am conducting an online survey on how people understand and use Wi-Fi technologies.

The goal of the survey is to help improve the design of Wi-Fi by collecting various user experiences.

Whether you have used it only once or use it everyday, every experience you had with Wi-Fi is valuable to this research and I will appreciate if you would take the time to answer my online survey.

The survey is 6-12 min depending on your experience with Wi-Fi and do not require any technical expertise to be answered.

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Click here to take the Wi-Fi survey
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Thanks!

Oregon State GIS group gets ready to map your world

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by Riad Lemhachheche, staff writer

GIS map

Global Positioning System technology has become famous for letting hikers and travelers find their location wherever they are.

GPS devices are used in cars to provide driving directions and in airplanes to display the distance to one’s final destination. But GPS is only the tip of a growing industry and academic field known as Geographic Information Systems or GIS.

“GPS is no good unless GIS is doing analysis with that data”, said Dawn Wright, professor in the Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University.

GIS technologies are used for research in forest science or oceanography, as well as being incorporated in products and services used by millions of people every day.

Mapping services like Mapquest, Yahoo Maps or Google Earth rely heavily on GIS to associate topographic data, street and highway layout and traffic information to enable their users to plan their travels.

GIS experts were on the forefront of the emergency response team during the Katrina relief effort. They were able to generate up-to-date maps of transportation systems and locate areas where flooding had the most impact.

OSU is an academic leader in the GIS field, as it is one of the 16 founders of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the major academic consortium in the field, that now counts over 70 members.

Last fall, OSU launched a new program for students and community to provide increased learning opportunities in the field of GIS.

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Nov 3: World Usability Day

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World Usability Day

Today is World Usability Day. So we should think harder today (and every other day too) on how we can make things, systems, services … more useful and enjoyable to use.
For my part, I am:

  • researching on how to make wireless networking more easy and natural to use
  • searching and accessing information more efficient (especially multimedia)

What are you doing?

Spanish company, Fon, wants to let wireless internet users share their connection

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(Update)

Fon, wireless community service

As I was looking at how network providers regulate the sharing of the Internet access they provide to their subscribers, I came across the initiative from Fon.
Fon is planning on being first a Spanish Internet Service Provider (ISP) that will make it possible for subscribers to share ADSL service through wireless connection (WiFi).

Principle

Basically, suscribers could choose between 2 models:

  • Resellers: in this case, subscribers could resell up to 50% of their connection capacity. Fon will manage the access to other suscribers and give the user a cut of the fees it gets from that particular wireless access point. (Identified in the business model as Bill for Bill Gates I guess!)
  • Community members: subscribers will then give up up to 50% of their connection capacity for free to others members of the service. In exchange, they will be able to roam on any of the other access points made accessible by other Fon members. (Identified in the business model as Linus for Linus Torvalds I guess!)
Fon Wireless Community Ads

Requirements and availablilty

As of now, the service will require suscribers to own a compatible router, the Linksys WRT54G Wireless-G Router
The service is not operational yet. It is supposed to open around Nov 15th of this year but the Fon community sign-up page is already available.

More details are available on the Martin Varsavsky’s blog

See also this other way of sharing your connection:
Ubicomp 2005 video: Yellow chairs

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