COLUMBUS (HJ) - Abe Strawn of Columbus, Ohio thought that he was doing his neighbors a favor. Soon after he had high speed cable internet installed, he set up a wireless router and named it FREEWIFI. For the computer savvy, a wifi connection means a free connection to the internet. He kept this up for about nine months until he had his credit card compromised. “The credit card company suggested I look for ways to protect myself. One of those ways was to shut off my open wi-fi. So I did.”
That’s when his other problems started. A day later, there was a knock on his door. One of his neighbors came to ask him about the wi-fi. Abe said that most of the neighbors knew he had the free internet connection. When Mr. Strawn explained the situation, the neighbor took offense and became upset. Mr. Strawn explained, “I think the neighbor thought I was accusing him of stealing the credit card number. I wasn’t. They tracked it down to a local restaurant. But as he raged on, he just seemed pissed about the internet being disconnected.”
A week later, Abe received an order of specific performance from the Franklin County Court. The order said that he was to immediately open up his internet connection to the neighbors. When Mr. Strawn did not re-open the wifi connection within a week, he got a visit from two police officers. “When they showed up, they thought I was stealing cable. I showed them the order and explained what it was and they thought it was completely stupid. “ The police officers left without tazing anyone.
As it turns out, Ohio allows for wifi squatters to claim rights to a broadcast connection if it has been given out for free for over six months. Once a half-year has passed, there is an assumed right to internet access and the wifi provider must file for a release of service a month in advance to halt the connection.
Mr. Strawn has filed to be released, but in the meantime, he is required to continue sharing his internet connection. When he complained about security, he was told that he had to offer password access to the encrypted connection. “That’s where I got back at the only neighbor that asked for the connection. I made the connection WHOSUCKSCOCK and his password is MYMOMDOES. He has to type that in each time.”