If you are like us, no hotel makes the reservation cut until access to free Wi-Fi has been confirmed. The quality and speeds are always a bit of a crap shoot, but it turns out it sub 1Mbps connections isn’t the only thing you might need to worry about next time you hit the road. When web developer Justin Watt booked a room at the Courtyard Marriott in Times Square, he noticed something wasn’t quite right with the pages he was viewing.
If Japan ever decides to ditch the “Rising Sun” bit, “Land of the Awesome Vending Machines” would be an apt second slogan. A multitude of useful, weird and wacky vending machines litter the landscapes of the country’s major cities, offering up goodies ranging from exotic drinks to delicious noodles and heck, even space gold and hotel rooms (as shown by Tom Edwards in his 24 hour vending machine survival stint in the heart of Tokyo). Now, those ubiquitous Japanese vending machines are getting even more useful, as one company plans on rolling out units that double as free Wi-Fi hotspots in 2012.
A new survey of 259 service providers and Wi-Fi vendors reveals that global pulbic Wi-Fi hotspot numbers are roadmapped to grow from 1.3 million in 2011, to 5.8 million by 2015. That's a 350 percent increase and doesn't even include community hotspots created by users sharing their own Wi-Fi access points. Those will add another 4.5 million to the tally.
Ah, it's good to be an on-the-go computer user in the Big Apple. Just last week Mayor Bloomberg and AT&T announced a collaboration to bring free Wi-Fi access to 26 locations across New York's various parks. Now, Cablevision's boosting their "Optimum Wi-Fi" network in order to bring customers cable-modem speeds over the airwaves. "But I'm not a Cablevision subscriber!" you wail, scrunching your face to hold back the tears. No need to cry, chum – Time Warner and Comcast struck a deal with Cablevision about a year ago that lets their subscribers hop on to Optimum Wi-Fi at will.
Back in November we found ourselves sympathizing with a UK bar owner who was facing a $13,000 fine for copyright infringement as a result of operating an open hotspot, but little did we know this was only the tip of the iceberg. It was a clear cut case of misplaced accountability, but it looks like the UK government is planning to go one step further to keep this from happening in the future. A new "Digital Economy Bill", if passed, would ban the use of open Wi-Fi hotspots outright anywhere in the UK. The bill would ultimately make any home or business operating an internet connected router 100 percent accountable for the traffic that passes over it.
Making users accountable for locking down their own connection doesn't sound like a bad idea in principal, but it ultimately closes off opportunities for businesses to offer internet access to the latté sipping masses at the local coffee shop. The bill will require all networks to be secured with a password, and to maintain a log of all users who access it in order to be in compliance with the new law. "This is going to be a very unfortunate measure for small businesses, particularly in a recession, many of whom are using open free Wi-Fi very effectively as a way to get the punters in," said Lilian Edwards of Sheffield University.
I'm sure nobody here minds trading up a few more civil liberties in exchange for giving the folks over at the RIAA a good nights sleep do you?
The perils of leaving your Wi-Fi unsecured can be plenty. It can even jeopardize a country's security in extreme cases, as appeared to be the case around 18 months back, when Indian cops found that terrorists were using open Wi-Fi networks to send emails to take responsibility for terrorist activities or to issue threats.
The United States leads Europe when it comes to the number of open Wi-Fi access points. According to WeFi, 40% of all hotspots in the States are unsecured compared to only 25% in Europe. But United States trails France in terms of the number of open access points with captive portals, which are used to “moderate the entry of users into unlocked hotspots.” Although it is not uncommon for public hotspots to be open for the sake of convenience, the use of captive portals can help monitor access and prevent misuse to a certain degree.
Nearly one-third of the world's total Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured, as per WeFi's estimates. WeFi's database of hotspots includes nearly 50 million hotspots, which the company says is around 10% of the total number of hotspots worldwide.
Canary Wireless was the first out with a usable Wi-Fi network spotter. We say usable because we’ve seen all manner of gimmicky, useless devices that couldn’t spot a Wi-Fi network if they were hit by a semi full of them.
Thankfully, Canary's second-generation Hot Spotter is quite a capable beast.
It was an offer that no sane iPhone owner in the U.S could refute. But alas, AT&T quickly sensed its folly and disowned its promise of free Wi-FI access for iPhone users across its network of more than 17,000 hotspots around the country. It had erroneously published a notice on its website apprising users that it was extending free Wi-Fi access to iPhone owners. The notice vanished from the company’s website after a terse stay that lasted for an hour between 8:30 a.m. PDT and 9:30 a.m. PDT.
Soon after, AT&T explained to Cnet that the announcement was a mistake. And so AT&T excused itself from the mistake that had the entire internet abuzz for a while. But AT&T has made quite a habit of erroneously promising free Wi-Fi access as, in May, it had similarly announced free Wi-Fi access for its Laptop Connect customers only to dismiss it as a mistake.