The latest numbers from the computer industry point out that more laptops and notebooks are being sold now than desktops. This is significant because most laptops and notebooks sold these days come with Wi-Fi receivers. Once in hand, it doesn’t take the owner of a brand new shiny laptop to discover that there is plenty of Wi-Fi out there for the grabbing. Some of it is freely given, such as when sitting at your nearby Starbucks. But some of it is not. And some of it is just there, its origin unknown.

Before getting into the pros and cons of using this apparently “free” Wi-Fi, a little background for those who aren’t familiar with how Wi-Fi technology is being used. The way it’s supposed to work if you want Wi-Fi in your home is like this. First you sign up with an Internet provider, one that has high speed access. It doesn’t matter if it comes from your cable company, your phone company, or a satellite. After that, you buy a Wi-Fi antenna and connect it to your Internet device. Then, you configure the whole thing to send Internet information back and forth from your computer. The thing to note here, is that there is always a monthly charge for the Internet service. At any rate, all Wi-Fi and Internet providers tell you that the first thing you should do once hooking up your antenna, is block others from accessing your Internet connection with a password. But, the thing is, a lot of people either don’t read far enough in the directions, don’t want to deal with the hassle of figuring out how to set up the password blocking, or don’t care if other’s can access their connection. Thus we end up with a lot of so-called “free” Wi-Fi, out there.

But, is this Wi-Fi really free, even if it comes unbidden through the airwaves into your living room? At present, it seems the law is, to put it mildly, rather murky. But in some cases it seems a person can be prosecuted for using another’s bandwidth without permission. For instance a man in Florida was arrested for parking in front of someone’s house in the middle of the night, merrily tapping away on his notebook. To further cloudy things though, most local police departments, if asked, will say that yes, they believe using your neighbors Wi-Fi without permission is stealing, though virtually every one of them will also tell you that they’ve never actually arrested anyone for it, and doubt the case could be successfully prosecuted unless there were very special circumstances, such as the man in Florida. The real snag in this whole issue really, is that the person with the antenna has the ability to simply block others from getting on by using a password.

So, using your neighbor’s Wi-Fi may or may or may not be illegal, but is it morally or ethically wrong? This query has been posed on many web sites over the past several months, and the response from those who feel that Wi-Fi entering their homes uninvited, without password protection, is essentially public domain and thus available for anyone to use freely, far outweighs those who thought otherwise. And it should be noted, that most of those who considered it stealing, were those who had actually purchased the antenna and were paying for the Internet service.

So, this leaves all those people out there who are already either using their neighbors Wi-Fi, or are considering doing so, having to size up the pros and cons of just jumping on someone else’s Wi-Fi. Here then, are the pros and cons.

The Pros. Pretty obvious. You get to get on the Internet at high speed for free. That’s about it. You save having to deal with an Internet provider and don’t have to give up any of your cold hard cash. Sweet deal.

The Cons. Well, though the chances are slight, you might get busted. Which would more than likely be a civil suit, i.e. someone suing you, rather than have a policeman knocking on your door. Not good, but not very likely unless you’re doing something obvious like sucking up all their bandwidth and causing them to not be able to do something important. There’s something else too, probably something you don’t know about. The person that has the antenna can, without too much trouble, see what it is you’re doing online; including when you buy stuff, which would mean getting all your financial information. Very bad. Finally, there is your own conscience. If you think it’s stealing, you’re likely to feel guilty. So, to avoid such issues in the future, why not buy your own superboost wifi and enjoy surfing in the Internet without any hassle and worries. 

So, there you have it, the Pros and Cons of jumping on your neighbors Wi-Fi. Please keep in mind though, that the purpose of this article is not to answer the question of whether using another’s Wi-Fi freely, is right or wrong, but to highlight the pros and cons of doing so. If you are someone who is currently using this approach to get online, or is contemplating doing so, I hope this article helps you figure out which way to go.