WiFi – Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

Well, sadly the summer vacation at our house in rural France is over and I am back to reality and London – and I have no shortage of OPLAN relevant material and events on which to comment!  First I should let you know how grateful I am to the French telco sector.  Rare words indeed from me!  Let me explain.  Our house is in the middle of nowhere – in the heart of Brittany surrounded by fields, sheep, cows and corn.  Precisely three years ago I was amazed to find that we were within ADSL range of the local France Telecom exchange.  After some research I opted for Cegetel and signed up for a basic 512 kb/s service for 14,90€ a month plus their associated voice package.   All worked well till last year I received smail mail notice that Cegetel was being acquired by neuf Telecom and that I must sign a new contract with the new company, Neuf Cegetel  – but if I did, then I would be rewarded by a ‘free’ month’s service.  I did what I suspect many might do – put the notice in a pending pile and did nothing!

Some months later, we are off back to our France home and, horrors, I arrive to find a letter waiting to me from France Telecom “Welcoming” me back as a customer!  Since I did not enter into a new contract with Neuf Cegetel, my phone line and number had been relinquished back to France Telecom with whom I still had the monthly line rental agreement.  A couple of days later, still convinced that we were living without ADSL, my wife is sitting at her laptop and suddenly Skype leaps into life with a call from a friend in New York.  Later that day she mentions she has been chatting with our stateside friend on Skype and I tell her that she must be mistaken … but she insists and I begin to think she must have been dreaming or drinking.  So when I put it to the test on my own laptop, much to my amazement, sure enough I am connected to the internet via our wireless router up on the first floor!  And so it has been ever since … day in, day out, 24/7 connection to the internet – for nothing!  Beats FON hands down.   Not one euro have I spent on internet access from our house in France since then and the chances of Neuf Cegetel ever getting their paperwork to catch up with their physical network … or the other way round seems remote.  But just in case they do have a roaming police force trying to track me down, I have had to refrain from putting a sign on my outside wall proclaiming an ‘open access’ hot-spot – something I would dearly like to do!

But if I did, not only might I risk my continued ‘free’ open access service, but judging by the terrible news here in London, UK, I would not be the only person at risk!  On 22nd August, a 39-year-old man was using his laptop while sitting on a wall outside a house in Chiswick (West London), when two Police Community support officers challenged him and then, when he told them what he was doing, he was arrested for using a broadband internet connection in the street without the owner’s permission!  You can read the details of this amazing story here and there is an excellent exchange of opinions and reaction on the ZDNet website.  But all said and done, let nobody overlook the words of wisdom and caution on the matter from Detective Constable Mark Roberts who warns us all, “This arrest should act as a warning to anyone who thinks it is acceptable to illegally use other people’s broadband connections.”

So not only will I have to deny you open access to the internet from outside my house in the depths of rural Brittany, I need to think about warning anyone standing outside my London office NOT to share my open access internet connection for fear of being arrested.   And come to think of it, maybe I should look ahead and afix a ‘do not use’ sign on the ground floor wall beside all my windows. But since reading the sign at night using the light spilling from my window might immediately preciptate the commiting of a criminal offence, perhaps I will need to put up a special light to light the sign … and another notice stating that light from this light must ONLY be used to read the sign!

I must say, the ‘closed’ approach to life is getting extremely complicated.  But I guess bigger fish than I already know that – like Hollywood and the recorded music industry.

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