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?