UK bill may ban public Wi-Fi

According to ZDNet UK, the British could be slapped with a major annoyance. The Digital Economy Bill, which is aimed to stop copyright infringement, may pose serious problems for small businesses, universities, and libraries. As per the bill, it would become illegal for a company to offer free, open, access to the web. This would mean that coffee shops may no longer be able offer users the ability to surf and sip, turning away many potential customers.

The problem with allowing anyone onto an open network is figuring out who takes the blame for illegal downloading. The bill would put the owner of the Internet connection at fault. In order for a small business to allow access under the new bill, they would have to do more than just password protect their routers. Essentially, to allow others to use a public connection, a company must become an ISP, keeping records of everyone they assign connections to. This is unfeasible for small businesses. Without such a system in place, large fines could be handed out. 

The article notes various reasons why libraries and universities can't be exempt from such restrictions. It all boils down to whether or not an establishment qualifies as an ISP or a subscriber. Subscribers aren't held accountable at the same level as ISPs. Large hotels would probably fall under the ISP category, while many coffee shops and other low-bandwidth businesses may be subscribers. It's still unknown where universities fit into all of this. Details of the bill are still being ironed out, but one thing's for sure, no one's going to like it.

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This is my take on it. I don't like the way government take control of I.T. in general - but that's just me, and sometimes it necessary.

Regarding this issue, provided they don't "outlaw" Public WiFi spots, this is actually a good law. I hope they arn't banning "Open WiFi" or "Unencrypted WiFi", but are banning "Unauthenticated WiFi". I believe BT Openzone already meet the criteria of this bill: Their Wifi is unencrypted, but you still have to log in to use the system, and everything you do is logged. Most sensible coffee shops/cafes would do this as well, or hire a company that can (for a small service charge).

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I like this law. It actually gives you an extra leg to stand on, by being allowed (forced) to show your logs, whereas before, the connection owner was made responsible.

Now, I really don't think giving your mate your wifi key when he comes round to your house to use your wifi falls within the scope of this bill - that's hardly "Public". Also, businesses allowing their staff to use the wifi probably woudn't fall within the scope, as that's within a single organisation. However if a business were to give visitors the key, those would need to be logged.

I think all that is required, is a solid update to WiFiDog, then we are all sweet.

Let me know what you think...

I don't know about other universities, but at my uni there's 2 networks - an open one which uses http authentication (tied to exchange) and a WPA-2 Enterprise encrypted one, which is also tied into exchange. If one university can do it, then surely they all can?

As for coffee shops and the like, starbucks already requires you to login with your loyalty card details to access it - I can't see this being much of a hardship, and it may even boost the sale/use of their own loyalty cards.

This bill effects everyone, it's taking away your rights and the government is taking it up the arse from lawyers from companies, also means if you have a unsecured connection and someone downloads stuff and a company sends a letter to your house threatening to take you to court you can now go to court and be charged.

They are slowly removing your rights for the sole purpose of Hollywood actors and musicians to make even more of a profit to spend on a Bentley which hires people who have care free life's earning 50k a year etc.

I will pay for a film if I think the actors deserve a £50m wage.

Kirkburn said,
Which rights, exactly?

The right to access to the internet. What do you think this 50p broadband tax is for?

what said,
The right to access to the internet. What do you think this 50p broadband tax is for?
To improve internet access and speeds?

That doesn't make it a "right", nor is it particularly relevant. How is WiFi hubs needing to be secured affecting this right?

M2Ys4U said,
Your right to remain innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, for one.
How would this be affected? You would still be innocent until proven guilty, this just defines who the responsible party is (the one running the connection).

I should add, I am not particularly "for" this change ... but the arguments against it so far have not been very convincing.

Edited by Kirkburn, Mar 1 2010, 7:07pm :

Kirkburn said,
How would this be affected? You would still be innocent until proven guilty, this just defines who the responsible party is (the one running the connection).

I invite you to read the bill, if you cab wrap your head around its terse language.

Copyright holders will be able to send "infringement notices" to ISPs with the minimum of evidence of actual infringement. Once enough of these notices have been collected, you'll be disconnected. No court, you'll just be considered an infringer and cut off. You'll have the chance to appeal this decision, but only *after* you're found guilty.

M2Ys4U said,
Copyright holders will be able to send "infringement notices" to ISPs with the minimum of evidence of actual infringement. Once enough of these notices have been collected, you'll be disconnected. No court, you'll just be considered an infringer and cut off. You'll have the chance to appeal this decision, but only *after* you're found guilty.
Agreed, that /is/ bad.

So, does this bill effect the clueless idiots who never turn on WEP/WPA on their home wireless routers?

Ilys said,
So, does this bill effect the clueless idiots who never turn on WEP/WPA on their home wireless routers?

Very much so, they would get disconnected from the internet if they don't secure their networks and somebody downloads copyrighted material using their connection.

M2Ys4U said,
Very much so, they would get disconnected from the internet if they don't secure their networks and somebody downloads copyrighted material using their connection.
And, tbh, this is their fault and responsibility if the connection was open, unhidden and unsecured.

Edited by Kirkburn, Mar 1 2010, 6:18pm :

Ilys said,
So, does this bill effect the clueless idiots who never turn on WEP/WPA on their home wireless routers?

Not everybody who uses a computer nows how to configure a router you know.

Patchou said,
Not everybody who uses a computer nows how to configure a router you know.
True, but ignorance isn't a very good excuse. Routers generally come with guides, and the set up almost always takes you through the sensible options.

Edited by Kirkburn, Mar 1 2010, 7:45pm :

Kirkburn said,
And, tbh, this is their fault and responsibility if the connection was open, unhidden and unsecured.

if you leave your car unlocked, is it your fault if somebody drives it into the front of a shop?

Of course not, and you shouldn't be guilty for unsecured WiFi either.

M2Ys4U said,
if you leave your car unlocked, is it your fault if somebody drives it into the front of a shop?

Of course not, and you shouldn't be guilty for unsecured WiFi either.

Wow, that's quite obviously a different thing. WiFi is specifically a sharable technology, and driving a car into a shop is totally different to copyright infringement.

The title is mis-leading. This UK bill may ban anonymous public Wi-Fi. Public WiFi that keeps track of who's on it will most likely be OK.

It's probably for the best tbh, we all know us mere mortals are bloody clueless they need to hold our hand every step of the way.

I thought the point of this law was to enforce policing of Free Wi Fii networks not as the title suggests "ban" them completeley!

Jedimark said,
I thought the point of this law was to enforce policing of Free Wi Fii networks not as the title suggests "ban" them completeley!

Well, it would effectively be outlawing them. Small places with wi-fi won't be able to afford or maintain the facilities to work as an ISP.

Arkle said,

Well, it would effectively be outlawing them. Small places with wi-fi won't be able to afford or maintain the facilities to work as an ISP.
It's not outlawing them at all. All they need to do is get a little bit of identification, an email, a name... whatever and away they can go. Sure *some* services may decide they don't have the technical expertise to be sure they are enforcing the law but I think the majority will figure it out. In fact about 90% of the "Free Wi Fii" services that I have used in the past have redirected me to some "registration" page before I can go any further.

Edited by 84Mark, Mar 1 2010, 5:50pm :

Jedimark said,
It's not outlawing them at all. All they need to do is get a little bit of identification, an email, a name... whatever and away they can go. Sure *some* services may decide they don't have the technical expertise to be sure they are enforcing the law but I think the majority will figure it out. In fact about 90% of the "Free Wi Fii" services that I have used in the past have redirected me to some "registration" page before I can go any further.

Im guessing you'd need mote that a name or email as they can easily be faked, you would need something like bank details, so if it does turn out that person has downloaded something illegal they can track that person down. Therefore you'd also need keep logs of ips/mac codes/ that go with the details they have taken and store that securely for a number of months i guess

Chemaz said,

Im guessing you'd need mote that a name or email as they can easily be faked, you would need something like bank details, so if it does turn out that person has downloaded something illegal they can track that person down. Therefore you'd also need keep logs of ips/mac codes/ that go with the details they have taken and store that securely for a number of months i guess

Maybe so - it's not difficult thought is it!

Lets say this does pass.... To be honest this is only going to make the problem worse. You're talking about taking away one of the greatest things about being in the digital age, and how we have seen the internet progress. Going back to the days of Napster (before it became the legal company it is now) piracy has been going on and while the methods have become a little more advance 10 years later there has been no change. Even if the ISP's start registering people in public places, the problem is going to get worse. Instead of trying to make the internet work for everyone, we still have record companies and other high profit businesses controlling and pulling the strings of politicians. And while they have valid worries and assets to cover, instead of restricting everyone, why not change business models and content distribution.

If this bill passes its going to cause more anger and push the file sharing methods to new level. People are very intelligent and will find a way around this like they have for 10+ years.

Probably, in a few years the US will pass a similar law. Actually, it will only take some law suits agains a coffee shop or something from the RIAA or MPAA until the invisible hand comes along and changes free public wifi.

Most mid-to-high end hotels that have wifi charge for it and require a login system. I figure the same "login" system will be coming to your local coffee shop too.

Shadrack said,
Most mid-to-high end hotels that have wifi charge for it and require a login system. I figure the same "login" system will be coming to your local coffee shop too.

Not sure what kinds of hotels you stay at, but pretty much everywhere I go offers free wifi (or at the very least wired) internet access. And this includes everything from cheaper places like Best Western to higher end places like casino hotels. Hell, even many resturants now offer free wifi (including ones that used to charge for it like McDonalds).

roadwarrior said,

Not sure what kinds of hotels you stay at, but pretty much everywhere I go offers free wifi (or at the very least wired) internet access. And this includes everything from cheaper places like Best Western to higher end places like casino hotels. Hell, even many resturants now offer free wifi (including ones that used to charge for it like McDonalds).

Some have been free others were pay-for. To be honest, I'd rather have a good pay-for one when I'm on business travel than a free one that is running at <56k because every-other-room is trying to download porn. :P

Shadrack said,

Some have been free others were pay-for. To be honest, I'd rather have a good pay-for one when I'm on business travel than a free one that is running at <56k because every-other-room is trying to download porn. :P

I guess it just depends on where you go. I've never had that problem anywhere I've been.

roadwarrior said,

I guess it just depends on where you go. I've never had that problem anywhere I've been.

In my travel experiences, I find that the high-end hotels charge for Wifi. Not that I have luxurious tastes, but sometimes my conferences are held in the most expensive hotels and I have no choice but to stay there due to discounted rates and easy of travel, but hotel Wifi bills can be as high as $25/night. Yikes!!!

donkeyman said,

In my travel experiences, I find that the high-end hotels charge for Wifi. Not that I have luxurious tastes, but sometimes my conferences are held in the most expensive hotels and I have no choice but to stay there due to discounted rates and easy of travel, but hotel Wifi bills can be as high as $25/night. Yikes!!!

I was paying 25 euro/night when I on business travel in Europe last.

still1 said,
why would someone ban public wifi? It sounds stupid to me...

It's quite simple; they are realizing their anti-piracy three strikes policy is full of gaping flaws (or is aberration itself) that could potentially get innocent people convicted for a "crime" they didn't commit.

They have three choices: kill the three strikes policy (not gonna happen), change nothing and let innocent people get accused of piracy, or ban public WiFi.

This is just the beginning. They're going to need to make more and more draconian restrictions to tie up the loopholes in their godawful laws.

The whole bloody bill is crap, all dreamt up by mandelson, one of the biggest d**s in the government. Unfortunately i can see this bill going through, but i hope to god it doesnt.

they don't have a clue, before we know it, we will not be able to turn our cmputers on as there will be some idiot that has passed a bill to restrict the usage of computer systems!!!!!!!!

So many corrupt MP's in parliament trying to restrict everything we do for the benefit of media companies, we need to get these corrupt MP's out!

torrentthief said,
So many corrupt MP's in parliament trying to restrict everything we do for the benefit of media companies, we need to get these corrupt MP's out!

problem is; theyre all as corrupt as each other
no one knows who to vote for cos theyre all the same two faced, taking back handers etc.
if this passes then it just reinforces the commonly held lack of confidence in gov/media types.

What? So my university won't be able to offer Wifi on its own campus for its own students anymore?

Probably. This is what happens when your elected representatives listen to the copyright nazis over the people who put them where they are.

Hopefully it'll be defeated, but these stories are popping up way too often these days.

what said,
What? So my university won't be able to offer Wifi on its own campus for its own students anymore?

Not if you have to log in.

Vveazel said,
And people complain about the EU being retarded?

And most who complain are from the UK. See a connection here? ;)

That's a shame it has come to this... Someone needs to stop these groups trying to stop "copyright infringement"... things like this are NOT going to stop or slow down piracy