Anyway, on its own, this isn't that big a deal. Certainly, it isn't that big a deal in the ongoing story of copyright infringement accusations and open WiFi (my thought is that this story about an Ohio county which had its free WiFi shut down over a copyright infringement complaint is much more noteworthy). However, something about the reporting on Ms. Paradiso's predicament rubbed me the wrong way. After noting that cutting off internet for someone who works from home is essentially the same as destroying that person's business, the article asked
is it right to penalize someone for not being tech-savvy enough to properly secure a wireless network?
To me, that's entirely the wrong question. Whether someone has open WiFi isn't just a matter of tech savvy. After all, even Bruce Schneier, who is probably the web's best known expert on computer security has advocated for open WiFi, saying that people who maintain open WiFi make the world a better place, by making a valuable resource more easily available to more people. While Mr. Schneier's analysis of the costs and benefits of leaving WiFi open might not convince everyone that open WiFi is the way to go, it certainly disproves the idea that leaving WiFi open is something that only the technically unsavy would do, and that policies should be built around the idea that leaving WiFi open is somehow a less legitimate choice than the alternative.
So, how would I like to have seen the article deal with the open WiFi issue? I think treating it as a real issue, with real policy consequences would have been a better way to go. For example, instead of assuming open WiFi is bad, it could have explained why the problems with open WiFi (e.g., making it harder to police copyright violations) outweigh the benefits (e.g., broader access to valuable resources). Or, in the alternative, it could have explained that open WiFi is valuable, and then discussed policies which would help foster it (for example, stripping ISPs who go after people with open WiFi of their protections under section 512 of the DMCA, under the theory that those providers are no longer acting as passive conduits, and so shouldn't be protected as if they were). Either way, it would have been a great deal more informative and interesting than simply treating open WiFi as something that happens only by mistake.