EFF's Open Wireless campaign: help your neighbors, improve anonymity, support innovation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is stepping up its open wireless campaign, which encourages people and businesses to leave their Internet connections open to the public, and offers advice on doing this safely and sustainably. As EFF points out, most WiFi networks are latent for most of the time, and there are a million ways that leaving your network accessible to passersby or neighbors can really help out, from emergency access during disasters to the urgent need to send an email, look up a phone number, or check directions. EFF's Adi Kamdar writes,

We believe there are many benefits to having a world of open wireless. Two of the big ones for us have to do with privacy and innovation.

Open wireless protects privacy. By using multiple IP addresses as one shifts from wireless network to wireless network, you can make it more difficult for advertisers and marketing companies to track you without cookies. Activists can better protect their anonymous communication by using open wireless (though Tor is still recommended).

Innovations would also thrive: Smarter tablets, watches, clothing, cars—the possibilities are endless. In a future with ubiquitous open Internet, smartphones can take advantage of persistent, higher quality connections to run apps more efficiently without reporting your whereabouts or communications. Inventors and creators would not have to ask permission of cell phone companies to utilize their networks, both freeing up radio spectrum and reducing unnecessary barriers to entry.

This movement is just beginning, but in a sense it has always been around. People, businesses, and communities have already been opening up their wireless networks, sharing with their neighbors, and providing an important public good. We want this movement to grow without unnecessary legal fears or technical restraints.

Why We Have An Open Wireless Movement


  1. I agree. Everyone should do this. Except me.

    I will not the take risk of some thugs marching through my home and stealing my computers because some drive-by pedo-thug tainted the sanctity of my internet connection.

    Furthermore I will not take the risk that I have to pay lots of money in representation to save myself from the likes of the MPAA or RIAA.

    Until enough cases occur and it is proven unfruitful to do discovery based on IP address I will not be taking part by providing infrastructure.

  2. It’s a nice idea but not very practical.  Why?  Because people are jerks.  My not very tech savvy neighbor inadvertently left her her wifi open and it cost her $150 in overage charges because someone in our neighbourhood was streaming lots of video though her system.

  3. First issue:
    “Will opening my network make me liable for others’ illegal actions?

    This one is a bit more complicated, but the short answer is, “We don’t think so.” Click here to find out more.”No thanks. Also,

    Given the proposed “six strikes” that the major telcos are proposing for a graduated disconnect and blacklisting, I’d be hesitant to open up an access point until all the public and private laws and regs are sorted out and clear. 
    If I did open an AP, I would:

    1. Use access controls to limit time and bandwidth to users. I don’t want my neighbor using my IP connection 24/7 and hogging up my bandwidth torrenting or streaming video. 

    2. I would have a physically separate dedicated firewall and second AP to DMZ my devices. 

    So it would involve a fixed cost for duplicate and additional hardware as well as how much loss of bandwidth I would tolerate and pay for. Given the ubiquity of open commercial wifi and the trend towards mobile IP devices over 4G, etc. networks I see this a solution in search of a problem. May have more practical application in developing economies or heavily censored regimes. 

  4. I tried this for a week. I live about 100+ ft up in a hi-rise, which would seem to imply that usage would be somewhat minimal. I can’t even get my own wifi at the bus stop in front of my building! Slowed my access down to a CRAWL. I love the idea — my tablet barely catches wifi anywhere these days, but don’t know whether its practical for many people to cripple their own access for this. 

  5. newer routers like d-link have a ‘guest mode’ to throttle bandwidth and prevent guests from sniffing packets. sounds like a perfect solution to enable sharing. i’ll have to get one, although i pity the fool who want to share my slow-ass interwebs connection.

  6. @– I don’t know about d-link but if new routers would just have a separate channel that does not let people into the local network while providing near full bandwidth so long as local users aren’t using it, it sounds like a good thing. 

  7.  I see locking my wireless like I do locking my house when I leave for work.  I know that the lock isn’t going to keep out the really determined thieves.  They’ll break down the door or pick the lock or smash a window if they really want in.  And I don’t even really lock up to keep my neighbors out if they needed to borrow something or even wanted to just come in and watch a movie on my fancy tv or a show on my premium cable channels.  But I still lock up to keep out the thugs and bums that would just come in and eat everything in my fridge and steal my stuff and rifle through my unmentionables and graffiti on the walls.  Same with my wireless.  I wouldn’t care if my next door neighbor sponged a little wifi or if folks out walking their dogs could use my connection with their smart phones.  But I don’t want every criminal and freeloader to just have an all-access pass. 

    I’d love a happy medium like was mentioned above where I could let people have enough access to enjoy sharing, but I could keep them out of my stuff I want to keep private and keep them from just running wild with overusing my connection. 

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