the death of community in a wireless world


About a decade or so ago I started using wireless, aka WiFi, computing. A Powerbook with a 802.11a I would hop from cafes that had this new technology, where they’d offer it as a perk, for free, they always had my business, which is to say, my money for coffee, bagels, food, etc. If there was no cafe, often someone would have an open connection in my neighborhood, and I personally left my connection open in my home office all the time. If someone wanted to surf, it’s on me, sharing is caring, and it was like elsewhere people were returning the favor. To be fair, there was firewalls and other security, it wasn’t like myself, some of my friends, and others were trying to be sitting ducks for someone to hack their networks. At the same time, there was this openness, community, free WiFi like a cup of sugar for a neighbor, and a dream of free internet, anywhere and everywhere someday, a world of hope, of possibility, and to be part of that felt exciting.

I’m not sure what happened; 9/11, a collective loss of innocence, conservatism, fear, people feeling the intrusion coming from the government at the time and/or commercials scaring people into believe the boogeyman was lurking out there, trying to hack their data, all the above? The reality that some broadband providers do cap their supposedly “unlimited” data plans, the drag on the network Netflix creates, or big pictures, or someone using your connection for porn, or illegal downloads, I get all that. But I feel we’ve lost something as a society locking down our networks, it’s like world where everyone pulls their blinds, and a “only what’s in it for me” attitude. I still applaud any and every place that offers free WiFi, and, if you’re ever in NYC and see a network “imagewrangers,” it’s open, no password, come on in, put your feet up, stay awhile.

Imagine free WiFi, it’s easy if you try
No passwords or logins, a brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people, sharing all the world…