Sandy Prompts Louder Calls For Free Wi-Fi

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and New America Foundation launched an advocacy effort during Hurricane Sandy, making a plea for homes and businesses to offer free, public Internet access.

If the Electronic Frontier Foundation and New America Foundation have their way, Hurricane Sandy will mean the end of password-protected Wi-Fi networks. On Tuesday, a new advocacy effort called the Open Wireless Movement was launched to promote free, open-access wireless Internet. Besides the EFF and New America Foundation, other partners in the initiative include NYCwireless, the Internet Archive, and the Open Spectrum Alliance.

The Open Wireless Movement is calling for households, small businesses, and large chains to offer free Wi-Fi to the public using secure routers. "To take advantage of the Internet, people should not have to attempt to skirt restrictive Terms of Service to attempt to tether their smartphones. And tethering would not be necessary if there were ubiquitous open wireless, so that anyone with a connection and power can share their network with the neighborhood," says the EFF's Adi Kamdar.

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  • webmaster

    If you leave your hotspot unprotected, and someone in a car outside or a neighbor does something illegal online, it will look like you did it. "I must have been hacked, your honor" will probably not hold up in court.

  • Flyman

    The answer isn't for people to open up their private networks that they pay a premium for. Thats not right nor fair. What thy need to work on is making internet access  cost far less.

  • cr0ft

    Talk about idiotic. It goes without saying (in my view) that there should be ubiquitous data access wherever you are, but the answer isn't for private citizens to set up wide-open wifi, the answer is to make 3G and 4G so affordable and tetherable that all devices we have could be connected. 

    The problem isn't the lack of wifi, for crying out loud, the problem is the massive gouging going on by the phone companies with their "restrictive terms of service". 

    If the EFF wants to do some good, they should stop babbling about free wifi and start going after the phone companies that completely artificially limit something as commonsense as tethering in the name of the holy Dollar. 

  • paul beard needs a gig.

    So who pays for the carriage of bits to and from the now-unsecured access point?

    This is really an issue for municipalities and the local broadband monopolies to address. Let them add wireless access points to their existing power pole/streetlight infrastructure. I don't see people opening up their paid-for wireless service anymore than seeing them leave an extension cord and a hose out for anyone to use.

  • Nick Taylor

    Yea, but you probably couldn't have imagined wikipedia before it happened either. Or open-source. Or any of the to-numerous-to-count examples of The Tragedy Of The Commons not actually being true.

    I was at my brother's (in the NZ suburbs) yesterday -  he shares an open wifi router with his neighbour. Out on the street, I can detect about 20 different locked routers... it's crazy.

    Because meantime in NYC, about a million people in the richest city on earth, are knocked off the grid because they're using a monolithic, hierarchical system, even though they're in possession of a mesh network... they just lack the collective will to switch it on.

  • Nick Taylor

    Your mind. You've internalised the market economy (or more accurately, the current instantiation of market economy)... as though the laws that govern it are laws of nature. They're not.

  • paul beard needs a gig.

    If your brother wants to share his router with passers-by, great. What does he pay and how much of that does he willingly give away? And how does that scale? Do we have free electricity? Water? Telephone service? So how would a service that combines two of those be free?
    Does your knee jerk reaction that I oppose public wifi satisfy you in some way? Because I actually don't oppose it. But I know it has to be paid for, not just in physical hardware that will live on everyone's brothers windowsill, but also in bandwidth. It's all very easy to say NYC had a mesh network they could have just "turned on" but if the power was out and phone service down, what were they turning on?

  • Satake Yoshinobu

    Assuming the electricity was still on, I would be happy opening up my wifi to the neighbors during an emergency. In a non-emergency state, however, I have no interest in folks slurping down movies and porn on my data cap as well as opening me up for legal problems if someone is hitting web sites that are on Homeland's watch list.

  • davey

     If there was a will to open the nets, the technology would follow. If the advocates would develop foolproof security for internal data and tech to automatically limit data from outside, we could come much closer to the benefits of universal wifi. Plus, governments would have to give up their antidemocratic nonsense about holding carriers responsible for what's on their networks. These, along with "intellectual property" censorship are what keeps us from building the amazing pervasive communication access that the technology is capable of.

  • BZimmer

    "Dipstick?"  Look at you go there, slugger!  Saving the world from less than civil discourse, one throwback at a time!  Well played!  (If Aziz Ansari has taught us nothing, it's that sarcasm doesn't always translate in text.  This is sarcasm.  BTW - thanks Aziz!  Love your stuff!)

    To the original point:

    In a narrow view, you could imagine a situation where businesses are either compelled to pay for the broadband, or do so because it attracts customers.  But what, for example, compels me, as a business man, to pay for broadband if customers in my establishment can hijack the three-bar signal from the McDonald's next door?  The same with the residential formula.  In many apartment complexes, you would require one live connection for every 8 households.  Who bites the bullet?  Is it the guy in 1102 with the parakeets?  Is broadband suddenly a compulsory purchase for the entire complex to average out the cost and distributed through semi public routers?  What about a neighborhood of detached houses?  Does it evolve into a utility?  Does the cost become more nebulous as it's buried into the tax code as a commodity for the common good?

    Somebody always pays for it, and this patchouli stinking little blurb doesn't detail who.  If all wireless connections are open, you better believe I cancel my subscription instantly, and who makes up that shortfall?  The cost of providing that infrastructure doesn't decrease, and the potential exit of Huawei as an ISP infrastructure tech provider from the US market doesn't help the forecast on that cost.  Not to mention the fact that ISPs (that's internet service providers, for the unitiated) are dying to go metered on usage.  Imagine what the evolution to cloud, on both the consumer and enterprise sides demands of that infrastructure.

    No, in this scenario, the "person that has the service" doesn't pay for it.  Either we all do, or McDonald's and the guy in 1002 with that damned parakeet are the ones left without a chair when the music stops.  

    PS:  Please get rid of that damned parakeet.  You're driving the rest of us crazy. 

  • BZimmer

    Mr. Riccobono,
    1) Wasn't aware that I was a conservative.  I'll recall my vote for Barry Obama immediately and stop my donation to PBS.2) I understand what you think you're getting at by saying the bandwidth is not a "non renewable."  If you understood even a fifth of the "paranoid BS" I'd "spewed", you'd know that the underlying infrastructure, the heavy metals and technologies present in the switches, routers and load balancers, the electricity needed to power them, not to mention the miles and miles of copper and fiber op and the PEOPLE who make a living seeing to it that these items DELIVER THE INTERNET, are NOT FREE.  Sure, saying bandwidth is depletable is like saying thought is depletable.  Implying that this nebulous quality is justification for a free internet is like implying the body of the thinking person does not actually need food or oxygen.

    Is internet too expensive?  YES - we're being taken for an absolute ride.  Should the internet be free for all persons?  Sure...right next to that other thing that we get that is completely and utterly free.  What was that thing again?

  • Chris Riccobono

    I wish conservatives actually understood how business works. :/

    Internet access is not a depletable resource.  I can't even understand half the paranoid BS you spewed, but perhaps you can at least understand this very simple, concise statement:

    Bandwidth is not a depletable resource.

    Somewhere you (and a hell of a lot of people like you) missed the part where we pay more, for less access, than most of Europe, all of Japan, and even some third world countries!  Northern California isp offers, for $40 bucks, internet that is faster than almost all of the country.  Some of our old and fat isps tried to get California legislature passed to make this illegal, quite hilariously :)

    It's like you never took a history class and heard about the telecom monopolies.  AT&T ring a bell?  Lets not make phone lines so cheap, the industry might crash, oooooeeeooo!