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Saturday, April 16, 2011

A modest serious proposal for inter-apartment internet-sharing arrangements

I live in a building with at least 18 units, and each of these seems to have its own wifi network. Most of them have figured out how to secure their networks, but as is always the case with oldsters and large samples, not everyone is so adept. So Seb and I have been mooching off the weak signals of various neighbors for the entire year. This isn't all that convenient, since the connections vary in strength depending on where in the apartment one stands. (The bathroom is a particularly good location, but it's hard to stream Buffy episodes from the bathtub.)

Not that we're averse to paying for internet; we're just averse to paying Comcast $60/mo for internet when there is so much unused bandwidth floating around on all sides. I have proposed to Seb, who is always complaining about the unreliability of our stolen connections, that we send a letter to our next-door neighbor offering to pay half his Comcast bill if he gives us his wifi password. He is old and lives alone, and I doubt he's spending his hours on bandwidth-devouring activities like World of Warcraft (although that would be an amusing revelation). He has plenty of internet to go around.

Seb thinks this is a bad idea, but I think it's eminently rational. I suppose one could worry about personal data theft in such cases, but I for one don't have the skillz to steal anyone's data even when it's naked, and financial sites are encrypted, so I would have to possess the additional skillz of decrypting the stolen data. Using a university network on any given day is much more dangerous than sharing your wifi with Miss Self-Important. Maybe I will add this point to the letter.

In any case, this is my proposal. I think it could be implemented in many multi-unit buildings, and if bandwidth use were a threat to the environment like every other human activity seems to be, I could even make my neighbors feel guilty/virtuous for declining/participating in it. Has anyone tried this? Or, more importantly, would you try it if you received a note under your door from me asking you to?

10 comments:

Brian said...

In my college apartment, my next door neighbor dropped a case of Heineken by my door every month in exchange for low-bandwidth mooching.

Miss Self-Important said...

I could propose a similar barter, but I don't know what beer is preferred by old history professor emeriti.

FLG said...

I think it sounds perfectly reasonable. Although, if I received your letter, then I'd create an entirely separate wifi network for you that wouldn't be exposed to mine.

alex said...

it depends on how comfortable you are having more of a relationship with the guy- there would be things you'd have to discuss periodically, like if there was an outage or a rate increase, etc. but i think it could be fine.

Tae-Yeoun Keum said...

How do you know History Prof Emeritus next door even has internet? It's not like his network name is something especially telling, is it?

Miss Self-Important said...

FLG: I don't know how to do that, so I'm going to assume my neighbor doesn't either. But does that mean he wouldn't say yes?

Alex: He seems like a perfectly nice man. He always lets me go first when we get to the stairs at the same time.

Tae-Yeoun: His network name is his name, which is usually a give-away.

arethusa said...

Ah, but if he gets your letter and doesn't like the idea, he might change his network name to something like "Don't even think about it." Or one of these other amusing wifi network names. (I particularly like "The Password is Blank" on p. 3.)

loafingcactus said...

Does it matter that it breaks the contract? Or not, because it was a contract Prof. emeritus had no choice in? Miss Priss a bit myself, it would matter. Though I freely Borrow from my neighbors when my network goes down, generally for the rest of the day rather than walk over to where it is plugged in and restart it (always listing in my head the crazy cases where people have been arrested for exactly this) Interested in how you view this issue....

Miss Self-Important said...

Arethusa: If that happens, it would solve all my problems for free.

Loafingcactus: Does the contract stipulate that your network is limited to you?

Sigivald said...

Practical enough. (I wouldn't do it if asked, but that's because I wouldn't want to have to secure the stuff on my network, and don't trust any random stranger that much.)

To answer the question for loafingcactus, almost all broadband contracts say you're not supposed to do that.

Indeed, AT+T specifically prohibits both resale and "public hotspots" (section 10. a.).

However, it sure looks like that wouldn't bar restricted access to another party as long as it wasn't for pay (ie, he could give you access without breaking the contract, so long as he didn't give everyone access, and you didn't pay).

In practice they won't know or care about a small payment for access to his router, so I wouldn't worry.