Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 07/03/2002What a great day it is to hang a wireless network out of your window, turn off your firewall and yell "Come and get it, everyone!".

Thursday 07/03/2002

What a great day it is to hang a wireless network out of your window, turn off your firewall and yell "Come and get it, everyone!". And as long as you keep your personal data well away from the public packets that flock in from the grateful populace, why not? 802.11b hotspots are proving a hit in the US, where laptop-toting passers-by take the opportunity to check emails and do a spot of browsing while guzzling back a Starbucks skinny latte.

Only if you try that over here, you're liable to get nicked and dragged in front of the judge -- it's thoroughly illegal to set up a public access telecommunications service without a big and expensive licence from the Gov. It doesn't matter that your public is one skate punk and a fat businessman with a comb-over: for the purposes of the law you might as well be setting out to service the entire UK population.

Which is silly, says Professor Martin Cave of Brunel University, who'd been commissioned by the DTI to lead a report on the future of spectrum allocation in the UK. Wireless hotspots should be legalised forthwith, he says, and let a million flowers bloom.

Quite right too. It's been a while since CB was popular, and the populace needs a new wireless game to distract it and shift some retail. Finding hotspots -- driving around the City of London with a Pringles tube pointing out of your window probably doesn't count -- and grabbing as much data as you can before moving swiftly on sounds like an excellent sport.

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