I'm currently a long way from home. I'm in the United States of America. Right now
I'm on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth heading to Denver and then on to San Francisco
before arriving in Sacramento to do some business there for the next couple of weeks.
Home is Adelaide, South Australia.
The US is an interesting place for me. Being an Aussie it's a lot like home, but with
some differences. Let me give some examples.
English is the lingua prima - although we tend to spell words the international way
and not the US way. "Colour" instead of "color" (which in some ways is annoying because
my spell checker - even though it is set to "English (Australia)" in Windows
many programs just only seem to work in "English (US)". But I can get over it.
The cars (or automobiles) we drive are similar, although we drive on the left-hand
side of the road. US cars are larger - much larger - and get filled by the gallon
and we fill by the litre (which, of course, must be spelt "liter" in the US as my
spell checker just bitched about my normal spelling).
The when the weather forecast in the US says it's 32 degrees it's cold. When it's
32 degrees in Australia it's hot. It seems that in both places we forget the add the
"F" and "C".
But one area where things are more than a little different is the growing ubiquity
of wireless internet access. Australia has hotspots, but most are not free. My home
town has "Citilan" which has free access, but you must be a client of one of around
half-a-dozen or so internet service providers to get these invisible bits of data.
In the US it seems that free access is free. I just spent half-an-hour waiting in
Dallas-Fort Worth airport where T-Mobile provides free access Wi-fi (although it didn't
work - I got an IP address but received no data).
I'm lead to believe that Starbucks, McDonald's and numerous other companies are providing
free access just to get people in the door. Even entire cities, like San Francisco,
provide Wi-fi clouds for free roaming access.
So here's the question of ethics: when I turn on my laptop and Skype automatically
connects should I expect this wireless benefactor to be free or do I need to perform
due diligence to determine the difference between a public service and a poorly or
unsecured private network?
I ask this question because for the last three days I've been connecting to a wireless
network called "linksys" in Lewisville, TX. Who is providing that link?
So where's the line drawn on free access and theft?
If began littering the local neighbourhood (aka neighborhood) with a handful of cash
should I cry foul if people take my money? Is it my money or I have I made it public
domain? Is there implicit permission given when one doesn't secure their Wi-fi?
Are "they" breaking the terms of their ISP contract by allowing others to share the
connection? Does that change anything?
Over time will the ethics change? I mean three years ago Wi-fi hardware defaulted
to open and you had to explicitly secure it. Now the default is closed and you must
explicitly open it. So does that mean that when there is an open access connection
that the owner has explicitly opened it or are they just using old technology?
Ah well, I got to get my email and to make some Skype calls thanks to "linksys" in
Lewisville, TX. Thank you, whomever you may be.