I’ve posted a couple of times about my wireless network – how I have it set up, how I’ve set it up wrong before, how I’ve decided to keep it closed, how I’ve failed to actually keep it closed, etc. But guess what? I’m back with another installment of my wireless musings. I closed it up last time I wrote, but then I opened it because it was “easier” and now I’m probably headed back to be a scrooge until I find a good solution. So here’s a bit of background.
I run an internet related business and have a pretty decent connection running into my house. For business purposes I have several people / systems hooked up to one or more routers and they all use that internet connection. Now, the easiest thing for me to do is to just leave the wireless network open so that no one needs to know any passwords to use it or anything like that. It would make that particular part of my life much easier if everyone could just connect and me not have to be involved in the process at all. But, alas, as I mentioned previously, there are some people out there who take advantage of the open access point. I really mean TAKE ADVANTAGE OF, not just USE. So, I go from trying to do something nice (leave the access point open) to just being annoyed at people for using excessive bandwidth and reducing the amount that my servers have at their disposal to do their job.
So bandwidth is one issue, but there’s also the issue of liability. It gives me a modicum of comfort know that the EFF thinks people with open routers should be treated as an ISP – you should get the same protection. But I haven’t really seen anything that says that you WILL get the same protection. To me, this means that if someone tries to do any of several nefarious activities utilizing my network connection that I may or may not be able to claim that the bits simply crossed over my router and be released of responsibility. I may open myself up to a hassle (or worse)… and for what? It also just now occurred to me as I type this that ISPs must maintain logs of usage for a certain amount of time. If I run an open access would I be responsible for maintaining such logs of usage? I would think that it would significantly reduce people’s desire to participate in providing open wifi if they had additional regulations to deal with.
I’ve mentioned two issues with the open router question. One is the bandwidth issue and the other is the liability issue. For the bandwidth issue I’ve recently read about (you networking gurus don’t get all high and mighty with me… I try not to know everything about this stuff and really I just want something that WORKS and that I don’t have to know HOW it works… you’ve probably known about this software for years) some custom firmware [DDWRT] that you can install on routers that allows for a LOT finer control. So, for example, you could set up a list of mac addresses to get unlimited bandwidth and then limit unknown mac address (likely your guests) to a different, lower bandwidth and even apply a usage cap per mac address. I don’t know if my router can accept this software, but I’m going to look into it. Doing so would at least alleviate the bandwidth hog issues and leave me to only worry about the liability issue.
I am working on finding a “hard and fast” answer to the liability question so if any of you out there have a resource for me that answers unambiguously how things would actually work then I’d like to hear from you. Ideally it would be case law, but educated discussion on the matter would be welcome also.