SPOTLIGHT: WiFi free-riding

Economists and political scientists have debated the issue of free-riding for a long time, and WiFi free-riding is but the latest example of the phenomenon. The growth of WLANs has been accompanied by growth in mooching. Last week in Singapore, teenager Garyl Tan was sentenced to probation for having hitched onto his neighbor's wireless Internet signal. Public opinion in Singapore and elsewhere is split over whether mooching should be punishable by law. Those against criminalizing the activity say that WiFi owners can easily secure their networks if they want to lock others out. Further, in most cases, the presence of moochers is transparent to WiFi owners. The most they suffer is a slowdown in Internet access if many moochers piggyback simultaneously. Those in favor of WiFi mooching being made a crime point out that silence is not consent, and so the failure of the owner to secure his network does not mean carte blanche for piggy-backers. Discussion

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