Tales of the Sausage Factory

Slurpr! Slurpr! For Fun Legal Questions, It's A Wonderful Toy.

Numerous websites that follow wireless news have reported about a new wireless box called Slurpr, which allows someone to aggregate up to six open wifi access points at once. In just about the next sentence, of each of these reports warns of the potential legal consequences of “stealing wifi” by using an open network that the operator does not intend for open use. Or, as Glenn Fleishman put it: “This might get you arrested six times in one day.”

But will it? And, perhaps more importantly, should it? With the rise of applications like FON, wifi enabled phones, and now the introduction of Slurpr, we need to get this issue resolved sooner rather than later. Otherwise, we can expect to see more arrests of folks unaware they are committing a crime and another equipment/application industry killed off by regulatory uncertainty.

As I have argued before, it makes much better legal and policy sense to require access point operators (and the equipment manufacturers who set the defaults) responsible for their own equipment and require them to close a network rather than to require the public to treat all open networks as off limits unless the operator somehow expressly tells the user it’s o.k. Why shouldn’t the act of blasting an open network into a publicly accessible place or onto someone else’s property be sufficient invitation to use the network, especially when it would encourage people to set power levels to appropriate levels and stop imposing interference costs on the rest of us? Why on Earth do we want a legal presumption that imposes obligations on the broader public instead of the operator, makes it much harder for people that actively want to share their networks, and encourages (rather than discourages) interference problems and poor spectrum management? Most especially, why do we do this when creating this presumption actually flies in the face of the usual legal presumptions about intrusions of private property into the public sphere?

The only answer I can come up with is that network technologies appears to have the amazing power of turning certain people’s brains into pudding and making them forget about 10,000 years of human experience of living in urban environments. For further elaboration on these themes, see below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

STOP THE WIFI TAX RUMOR

Freaking trade press should know better, or at least learn to read more carefully. There is a steady drum beat of reports, starting I think with this one at RCR Wireless News that the President wants a “wifi tax.” This is, bluntly, a misreading of the plain language of the President’s budget proposal.

Lord knows there is plenty in the proposed budget not to like, but there’s no “wifi tax.” My analysis (and a little context) below.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Important Conference on Spectrum Policy and Community Networking

I’m actually cutting short my vacation to Pennsic to give the Keynote address at the 2004 National Summit for Community Wireless Networks on August 20-22, 2004. This conference is a meeting of folks deploying community wireless networks, policy wonks like yours truly, and anyone else who cares about revolutionizing spectrum policy and setting networks free. the goal is to educate each other and develop ways to move forward in a coherent movement that promotes positive spectrum management reforms. The announcement is reprinted below. Please circulate widely. Hope to see you all there.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Draft Progressive Principles for Spectrum Management

I was recently asked by another organization to take a stab at my vision of progressive principles of spectrum management. My goal is to provide a set of guiding principles that go beyond mere economic efficiency or even freedom to innovate. While I feel these are important elements of any policy, the overarching goal of spectrum management should be, in the words of the Communications Act, “to make available to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex” the benefits of our communications system.

These are my own thoughts, and I am very curious to receive wider feedback from the Community at large. Please also keep in mind that these are a draft and represent my own best efforts and opinions. They do not represent any official position of any organization, and are certainly not the position of Media Access Project.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of The Sausage Factory: Unlicensed Spectrum Access II

O.K., so what’s at stake this year and how can you participate? Read below on how to help get more spectrum available for unlicensed access, help boost available power, exercise your democratic rights with your web browser, and educate the FCC and your Congresscritter.

Or you can go back to being a cynical consumer moo cow who thinks bitching and moaning about how stupid government is relieves you of your responsibilities. (Think I have an opinion?)

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