Wireless connection when not within range?

I have a laptop that uses wireless cable Internet when I’m at home. There is an external Linksys wireless card plugged in at all times. I’m about 30 miles from home, in a house without any sort of wireless/DSL/cable hookup, using my modem and dial-up. However, I keep getting on-and-off notices that I’ve been connected through my wireless network. The signal strength is low, the speed usually 5.5 - 11 mbps. Each connection is short - anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes. I’ve used the internet here many times before and never encountered this before. We’re on a street with houses pretty close to one another, but I’m not sure that anyone around us uses the Internet, let alone wireless. What could be causing this?

It is very likely that someone within range has installed a wireless access point. Download a tool like Boingo
or Netstumbler and run it. These will scan for open access points and let you know what you are connecting to.

And if you want to avoid this (and are using windows XP to configure your wireless card), you can go into the wireless tab of the network connection properties, click “Advanced” and make sure “Automatically connect to non-preferred networks” is turned off. If that’s off, then your card should only attempt to connect to networks which you’ve specified in the “preferred” list (the bottom one) in the wireless tab of the network connection properties.