Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's WiFi

Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's WiFi

Jason Yang
Oct 6, 2011

Who doesn't like having the conveniences of cable and internet services? But the services come at a pretty hefty price premium. When we were younger and split the bill with roommates it didn't seem so bad, but now that we're all grown up and living on our own, the entire bill is ours to pay. Well what if we wanted to save some money and share internet or TV with our neighbors, is that legal? Or if we found an unprotected WiFi signal, could we just hop on for free?

For the amount of time many of us spend at home watching TV or using the Internet, the usage doesn't always seem quite inline with the expensive bill. So what if you and your neighbors plan ahead and split a single internet or TV connection? Unfortunately the reality of TV or internet sharing is that you're probably violating your terms of service as agreed upon with your provider. While doing so may or may not be technically illegal, it is most likely a breach of contract and you could be subject to termination of service, fines, or even civil penalties.

Well what if your neighbor set up the connection and opened up their WiFi for you to join? Unfortunately that's also in the terms of service you agreed to when you signed your service agreement with your provider. Just because it's wireless and easy doesn't mean it's any more allowable. It's not like your neighbor ran a coax cable over to your doorstep for you, which would be sweet.

So what if you're just hanging around and you see an exposed and unsecured network? And it just so happens to be your neighbors and you just happen to buy him dinner once a month for exactly the price of half the bill? Precedence has been set before that you're still illegally accessing someone else's private network, but there are some areas where the latest thinking is that accessing an unsecure network doesn't count as unauthorized use because the openly exposed network counts as authorization - as in exposing yourself with an unsecured network is granting permission to others to use it. But your mileage may vary depending on your local laws.

So unless you're sly about it, it's probably not allowed. For those who willfully circumvent their terms of service, well you're just living on the edge. But then again, the breeze and view is much cheaper out there.

(Sources: Cox Communications Policies,

(Images: Flickr members jem, superfem, //">WordRidden licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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