No Flight, No Internet

The Orlando International Airport provides a wireless Internet connection that I use. However, I have been informed by representatives of this regional authority that I am not allowed to use this government service because I do not have “a ticket to fly.”

I beg to differ.

Do I have a leg to stand on?

IANAL. Where are you when you are using the connection? In the airport? Or do are you “stealing” airport bandwidth from somewhere close by?

In general, just because a service is provided by the government doesn’t mean you have a right to have it. You have to pay a fee to go into national parks, for example. You have to register your car to drive it on public streets.

It’s only my opinion, but the government can set any policy it wants on who can benefit from services it provides.

(I am not 100% sure that you are dealing with a government entity; the GOAA is governed by a board consisting of members determined by the government, but I’m not sure the GOAA itself is a government agency.)

That said, I have got to ask how they even know you exist, and how they can tell whether you have a ticket or not. I would think that your usage of this service would amount to a drop in the bucket and would pass completely unnoticed.

There have been a couple news reports in my local area of people being charged and convicted of theft of services. Their crime was parking outside of Starbucks locations and using the WiFi that was intended for the customers of the coffee joints. If the free internet was intended for ticketed passengers waiting at the terminal, that leg is awful weak.

How can you charge for something being openly bradcast across the airwaves? That’s like charging someone for listening to the radio.

It’s done extremly easily and very commonly. A large number of countries fund their public broadcasters (radio and TV) in part or in full like this.

Surely they have the right to limit a free service in any way they desire, short of discriminating against protected classes?

It’s not a broadcast - it’s a two-way connection. In practical terms, you charge people by making them pay to obtain some necessary piece of the setup - such as the encryption key they need in order to talk to the network.

I have no problem with that - which is why my home WiFi is key-protected. But if your gving away something for free, you can’t blame someone for taking it. Several times when waiting for someone in my car, I’ve opened my laptop and logged onto some random available network. Was I stealing? The way I see it, if they didn’t want me to use their connection, they wouldn’t have offered it free for the taking.

So you see a car on the side of the road - some daft bugger has not only left it unlocked, but they’ve left the keys in the ignition. Is it yours for the taking?

But they didn’t forget. They did it on purpose.

How should I know it’s not for free? There’s no sign up. There’s no code. Plenty of places offer free WiFi. How could I know this isn’t one of them?

never mind

As pointed out, it’s not just listening to a broadcast, it’s using a two-way connection, which means their server is doing work for you.

Out of curiosity, suppose you want a newspaper. You put fifty cents in a vendor box, open it, and notice that there are an additional twenty copies of the paper, just free for the taking. Do you take them?

Actually, Alessan is making the point that this WiFi, being unlocked, is more similar to the piles of free newspapers offered in public transportation stations at many European cities than to the pile of newspapers at a kiosk or the pile at a self-locking, pay-per-grab machine.

The folks who make the free newspapers have found ways to make a living out of them; they’ve chosen to charge for the ads exclusively, not for reading the paper. Many of them say “read it and pass it on,” even.

But the folks with the WiFi are saying “ah, no, even though we didn’t put a lock on it, which we could have done easily, it’s to be used by guests only.”

The MCO website says nothing about requiring you to have a ticket in order to use the wireless.

However, I have no doubt that they can limit access to this free service if they so desire. As you were directed to stop using it by a representative of the airport authority, I’d say you’ve got a very short leg to stand on.

If Starbucks is giving out free samples of coffee, can you keep getting in line? Probably, but you should also probably knock it off once they tell you to.

I’m not sure that analogy after analogy is going to achieve anything here.
Some things are free for the taking, and it’s OK to take them, because the owners want you to - other things are technically free for the taking, but the owners don’t want you to, so you shouldn’t. It appears that the WiFi in question falls into the latter category.

I think in this case, it’s of the latter kind: it’s only open for customers, who are paying for something which includes (specifically or not) optional usage of something: condiments at fast food places, breakfast in hotels, restrooms in cafés, wifi internet in railway stations and airports. If you can get away with it, by all means do, but using this service is probably theft, technically.

This is a bit like some libraries becoming de facto homeless shelters during the day. An airport is a public place and it is, in most cases, operated by an arm of a local government.

But it is there for a purpose, and there is an at-least-implicit expectation that everyone there is using it for its intended purpose.

You can’t just hang out there all day. You can’t go there and solicit donations for your cause (at least not without some restrictions). You can’t sleep there overnight (at least not night after night).

The exact social status of drive-by WiFi use is unsettled as shown by the varied commentary above. As best I know, the legal status is also unsettled, with various cases citing vvarious analogies to regulations onother topics.

But clearly it is within the rights of the airport, or any other place of public accomodation, to place reasonable restrictions on the behaviors of people who consume that accomodation.

I too would like to see an answer to this.

Consider the potential for lawsuit revenue, which these days is very real and very much in the minds of all new media providers. Big business would be fools to opt out of the chance to sue some poor working joe, or an entire potential class of poor working joes, into pauperhood.

I think people are being too hard on Will Repair. There isn’t any clear cut answer except at the extremes because, like many things, the legal and judicial systems haven’t found a good resolution to these issues yet. Nobody has. I have to carry a laptop for work with me most of the time. Like many if not most laptops, it will grab any wireless connection around. Let’s say you live in a large apartment building. You go downstairs to wait for a friend and bring your laptop. It connects to your signal 1 floor up and you surf the SDMB. It turns out, it wasn’t your signal that you tapped into but your neighbor’s. Have you committed a crime? The cost to the whoever is providing the system is negligible.