Using neighbor's WiFi goes legit

Typically the residents of a building or suburb would use their neighbors' WiFi access stealthily, and in some states it is already against then law. Never mind. Haiyun Luo, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and head of the Systems, Wireless, and Networking Group at the university, has developed a technology which would allow neighbors to pool their WiFi Internet access to deliver better performance and exploit bandwidth which would otherwise sit idle. What is more, the service would be cheaper to each individual user. Luo says the technology he created with graduate student Nathanael Thompson would encourage people to share their bandwidth without having to worry about security or privacy issues.

The 1MB Practical End-host collaborative Residential Multihoming (PERM) software file is available for download and may be used by users who have subscriptions for broadband connections. The PERM Project site describes the technology as having been implemented on Linux clients and with Linksys wireless routers. The University of Illinois funded the research which led to the development of the technology, and Luo says he plans to discuss the technology with ISPs. He says the technology presents "a great opportunity" for them in that more people will be encouraged to subscribe for services if the services are more flexible and perform better. ISPs typically try to restrict certain uses of their broadband services by discouraging freeloaders from accessing the Internet through unsecured WiFi routers, but acknowledge it is difficult for them to monitor such abuse.

PERM uses flow-scheduling algorithms to choose the best connection available and gives subscribers priority when it comes to their own Internet connections. The software also alerts subscribers if their connection is being misused. The peer-to-peer technology is initially restricted to use by people in their homes, but Luo is interested in extending the technology, say, to users in cars and homes.

For more on PERM and for downloading the software:
- see the PERM Web site
- check out Bob Brown's PCWorld report

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