As I sit here playing with my wirelessly-networked Linux laptop and perusing the other nineteen networks that are within range of my wireless card, a thought occurred to me. One of the networks is unsecured, which means I could easily get on it. Not that I want to use someone else’s bandwidth, mind you, but suppose I did the same thing deliberately that the hapless (at least so I assume) owner of the unsecured network is doing. Just set up a router and leave it unsecured, free for anyone in the world to use.
It might be foolish, but it is a means of communication, right? Communication being speech, does that not mean that my conduct would be protected by the First Amendment? If have a right to put up a public bulletin board for “community messages” in my front yard (which I do), then I think I have the same right to allow anyone to use my bandwidth. I realize I might be violating the terms of the ISP, but that’s another issue. Most of the posts about this issue speak in terms of the the theft of bandwidth (and opinions vary), but my concern is whether the state could make this a crime; i.e. whether there’s a legal right under the First Amendment to give it away. I think there is. (If a city can give away free Wifi, then why can’t a private citizen?)
Only a crackpot would do this, but legal issues often turn on the whims of crackpots.
MORE: Here’s a typical news report warning the public about the danger of sharing WIFI:

But what I’m talking about is not stealing, but giving. Simply providing free service to anyone. All that’s needed is an account and a router. Is it a bad thing? If it free speech?