Wi-Fi Internet Connection Questions . . .

Saw this article in Newsweek:

and I thought 11 Mb per second sounded appealing, but too high tech for me.

I looked up some of the companies listed in the article and it looks like the only way to make it work is if someone else (company, community, neighbor) has the service in my area then I can get it as a subscriber -or- I can be my own provider, provided I already have a broadband, T1 or DSL connection, which isn’t available in my area. I don’t want to drive around with a laptop and an antenna looking for “hot spots” or climb to the top of a hill, but this seems like it could be the wave of the future.

So, my questions are: if you run Wi-Fi as a subscriber from someone else’s DSL connection, isn’t that stealing? Is there a way to get this to work legally with the right antenna linked into the right source? How close do you have to be to get connected (farther than the usual DSL limits)?

I’m in the 'burbs of a mid-major city, but far enough away (they say) that I can’t yet get DSL and cable modem isn’t available.

If you piggy-back your connection onto someone elses signal without paying for it then yes, you are stealing. I don’t know exactly what it would be that the police might charge you with but I expect they could think of something. The company or person whose connection you co-opted might also have a cause of action for a civil suit.

Certainly there is a way to get this to work legally as many people are doing it already. However, sooner or later you need to get the signla back on a land-line. So, you either need to get a series of repeaters to carry your signal to someone with a wired connection or you need to bring the connection out to you.

Although DSL and cable modems aren’t available to you it is probably possible to have a T1 line run to your house. Of course, this would be expensive. The trick here is to become your neighborhood provider and get everyone to chip in on the cost. You could have everyone else use Wi-Fi to beam their signal to your house where you’d have equipment (basically a router) to pump it out a land-line.

Of course, as the article mentioned, security is a MAJOR concern for these things. Still, that issue can be addressed if you make the effort.

Would the whole cost of doing this be reasonable? I have no idea. You’d have to sit down and crunch the numbers to see.

[sub]BTW: DSL is restricted by your distance to the nearest phone central office. 18,000 feet is the maximum run but you get better speeds the shorter the distance is. Go to http://www.dslreports.com for an analysis of your distance to the nearest CO and any providers in your area willing to sell you service if they exist.[/sub]

Morally speaking, using someone else’s WiFi network without their permission is wrong, but you already knew that. :wink: A smart administrator/user, however, can configure their wireless network so that unauthorized busibodies can’t get on at all, so they’re not entirely helpless.

Note that you don’t need broadband (DSL or cable modem) to use WiFi – Apple’s Airport base station, for instance, supports telephone dialup as well as broadband, to the point where the station automatically dials your ISP and tries to establish a connection whenever you access the network. I can’t imagine why other WiFi manufacturers can’t provide similar services/functionality.

I’m not sure it’s a legality issure rather than a contractual issue with the ISP of the person running the access point (yes, technically it is stealing, but I can’t imagine anyone going through the effort of prosecuting, or even arresting, someone for it). It is trivially easy to block casual users from accessing your WiFi network, so if someone is “stealing” your connection you have only yourself to blame (and it would be pretty damn difficult to catch someone anyway, unless you had a sniffer on your LAN and examined the individual packets looking for some identifying info).

As far as range, well, sorry, it’s not going to help you here. The range is on the order of a couple of hundred feet. That can be improved somewhat with specialized antennas, but if you’re outside DSL range you can forget about it.

You should probably look into getting broadband via satellite, it’s kind of expensive ($70?/month), but may be your only real option. Check out www.getconnected.com