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WiFi Law: What You Need To Know

As technology evolves so does the legal writing around it. The founding fathers of America never dreamed that there would be such a thing as the internet, much less wireless internet that someone could access from anywhere. If they had known then what would be now, they would have written a lot more into the constitution. That is why internet usage and the laws surrounding it are so important today, because today we are doing the work of the founding fathers and trying to determine how to govern new and exciting technology that had never existed before.

Here are a few key things that have been discussed and decided since the advent of the internet that might apply to you…


Some people wonder whether or not it is legal to use someone else’s  wireless network services  if it is not password protected. While this has only really been decided at the state level so far, most states do have laws against “piggybacking” or “mooching” someone else’s WiFi. This most commonly occurs among neighbors using each other’s network. In New York, this is a class A misdemeanor. Although the laws are still unclear as far as what is “authorization” and “access”, it is best to steer clear of jumping on someone’s WiFi network without their permission.


Okay, so I shouldn’t use someone’s personal WiFi network without their permission, but what about a business that offers it to customers for free, can I use that WiFi? This falls into a somewhat similar bucket as personal WiFi in the sense that you should always follow the guidelines set forth by the business that owns the WiFi network. Most coffee shops and public WiFi providers have a set of rules they’d like you to follow, and failure to follow those rules could constitute as unauthorized use of the network and thus lead to legal consequences.


While the laws surrounding WiFi networks are still fairly new, that doesn’t make them less severe or easier to maneuver… if anything, the opposite is true. Due to the malleability of these laws at such an infant stage, if someone wants to come down on your for something WiFi related, they can, and a good lawyer will find a way to make you a criminal. If you find yourself in a place where you are being persecuted for illegal WiFi usage, a business lawyer may be a great way to get some counsel, because most likely, this will be a contract dispute over what terms of service you may have violated.

The best way to protect yourself from being entangled in any WiFi related issues is to use you won WiFi whenever possible. This is becoming easier and easier with the advent of cellphones that can transmit WiFi hotspots anywhere you have cell service. If your cell phone isn’t capable of doing that, or you want to try another more reliable option, there are many companies like this one that offer WiFi Hotspot plans that are far-reaching geographically and offer you internet much faster than your phone can, anywhere you are.

The future of the internet is here, and the laws are catching up to it. As we evolve technologically, the laws will fluctuate and change, so always trust your gut… if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.