Loading Events

Crowdsourcing Wireless Coverage

Thursday, February 14, 2008
12:30 pm


302 Computer Science

Food and discussion begins at 12:30 pm. Everyone invited.

The idea of pervasive WiFi, allowing users to connect to the Internet from wherever they happen to be, holds substantial appeal. In urban areas, existing WiFi technologies make this goal technologically feasible. Several municipalities have considered subsidizing WiFi deployment, but rolling out a new network with dedicated nodes is expensive. Earthlink, which had hoped to offer such a service commercially, announced last week that it is exiting the business.

Meanwhile, private users are putting up their own access points (mostly for their individual, local use). In general, these access points are locked down out of security concerns. But it’s possible to imagine a future where people to agree to share existing wireless access points, unlocking the defacto saturation coverage that already exists in most downtown areas. Bruce Schneier argues that leaving WiFi open should be considered a matter of basic politeness, while an NYTimes column concludes that is ethical to “use, but not overuse” WiFi signal, whatever that may mean.

Is this a collective action problem — and if so, how could it be solved?