Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Thou Shalt Not Steal Thy Neighbor's Internet

As wireless Internet becomes more readily available, it's quickly becoming much easier to log on for free wherever you go, especially in urban areas. In an article on CNN/Money, Steve Hargreaves covers the increasingly popular activity of logging onto a nearby WiFi connection. (View the full article here.)

Legally, there are many questions still unanswered about this kind of "theft." Federal prosecution is decided on a case by case basis. Local laws can sometimes offer more clarity. In any case, it appears like it will be difficult to determine what liability issues exist. It should be noted that a man in Florida was arrested last month for stealing Internet from a home while sitting nearby in his parked vehicle. (More on this here.)

One interesting point for the multifamily industry: one expert cited in the article specifically mentions that cases in multifamily communities may be handled differently, and with less regard, than those in single-family neighborhoods. As an owner, it will become increasingly more common to offer ubiquitous wireless access as an amenity in units and throughout a property's common areas. It will also become increasingly more important to ensure that your provider offers access that is properly secured and restricted to residents and staff members. Fusion Broadband is one such service provider that offers secure WiFi in the unit as an add-on to their regular high speed Internet service.

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