Is Wireless Piggybacking from a Neighbor Illegal?

First, a quick definition of Piggybacking. I like to define it as the act of using a notebook computer or other electronic device to connect to an open an unencrypted wireless access point, often with the Intention of connecting to the Internet.

Internet Service can be expensive. It tends to range from the $25 to $75, depending on your Internet Service Provider, your service plan, and area.

But why pay when you can get it for free from a neighbor? We all know by now that there is at least one neighbor around us that doesn’t secure their wireless network. But is using their network instead of buying your own legal?

Technically speaking, you are stealing from your neighbor by doing this. You are using their router’s resources (the one that has to send and receive packets to maintain communication with your computer), and you are stealing bandwidth.

(Bandwidth is tricky, because while there is typically no limit to how much data a person or store can download, there is a limit to the speed. By downloading your email, you are making every other user’s bandwidth slightly slower.)

But you are not just hurting your neighbor with this sort of activity. You are hurting local Internet Service Providers. They depend on having customers, and by doubling-up with your neighbor, you are stealing from them. (And what happens when a company loses money? It rises prices, of course!)

Is it ethical? Not really. It negatively impacts both your neighbor and local ISPs.

Is it legal? Just like stealing cable, wireless piggybacking from a neighbor is illegal.

[tags]computer morals, computer ethics, piggybacking, computer law[/tags]