I HAVE A LONG-RUNNING disagreement with those who safeguard our public internet assets from official visitors. Whenever I request that our State-funded wifi node be opened to ease access for visiting delegations where I work, I hear all the reasons why it's not a good idea. And then the eyes start rolling when I talk about my own security setup at home (SSID mellifont_friary at left) and enthusiastically acknowledge that I have operated an open wireless network since 2003. I do not require passwords. I run no encryption protocols. Anyone with wireless capability who can see my network can use it to access the internet. That includes two neighbours and the occasional car that parks across the road from my bay window to suck on my service. I think it's a good thing--essential when messing around with mobile phones containing wifi antennas--and like Bruce Schneier, "it's basic politeness. Providing internet access to guests is kind of like providing heat and electricity, or a hot cup of tea." In my case, it sometimes means creating a welcome pinch point on the road in front of the house as people stop to check mail or tweet for free.
I have heard all the scare stories about malcontents sniffing my bandwidth, stealing my bank passwords, sucking my user names for the hundreds of places I log into every day. I have watched learned barristers shake their heads while explaining I may be served with a warrant for pirated movies, child pornography, or state terrorism claims. Right--in a Republic that does not catch any of the people chatting on phones as they cruise past my front door in excess of the speed limit. I'm with Schneier on this--if I was locked down, I would have a harder time defending myself against a charge of downloading illegal content.
I think public access to information is essential in a democracy and that open access is more important than free street lighting. So I will continue to do my part and offer free internet access to anyone who wants to sit outside. And if my goals are met this year, I'll power an open wifi node in the centre of Cashel and I will beam my house node to the south side of the Rock of Cashel.
Please stop by and enjoy the service. And if you're in front of the house, you might discover my unlocked door and tendency to adopt stray animals who wander inside mirrors my philosophy about my insecure wifi network. You're welcome if you knock first.