The quick and simple answer is yes! It is illegal to use your neighbors’ WiFi without their permission.
Even if they give their permission, many internet service providers do not allow it.
Read on to learn about why it’s illegal and what can happen if you use it without paying for it.
Is It Illegal To Use Neighbor’s Wi-Fi? (United States)
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What Exactly Is WiFi?
It might be helpful to give a quick overview of WiFi.
Short for wireless facility, it allows computers, phones, and other electronics to connect to the internet.
This lets us check our email, surf Google, stream movies, music, and so much more, from the comfort of our own homes.
Nearly everyone from teenage gamers to multi billion dollar companies are reliant on WiFi.
Information About Using A Neighbors WiFi
At some point, you may find yourself without WiFi.
Maybe you forgot the bill. Maybe your router malfunctioned. Panic ensues. Perhaps you have a project due for work, an assignment due for school, or you’re expecting an important email.
The library is closed and the nearest Internet cafe is miles away. So a thought pops into your head. I could just use my neighbors’ WiFi. They aren’t password protected, they’ll never know. It’s fine, right?
No. It is illegal to use your neighbors’ WiFi without their permission.
The neighbor, after all, is paying for the service. If you use it without permission, that is stealing or piracy, as computer folks call it.
There are many ways people try to justify it.
Unauthorized Use of WiFi
There are always excuses like:
• they won’t know
– Maybe you’re right. If it’s just a one-time deal for a short time, they probably won’t notice. However, if their internet starts to lag, they may suspect.
It’s easy to check and see if there are unknown devices on your WiFi. It’s not worth the risk of angering your neighbors or, worse, having them file a complaint.
• They must not care if they didn’t password protect the WiFi
– This may or may not be true. Some people may have forgotten or are just trusting that their neighbor won’t use their stuff that they pay for.
In addition to it not being the neighborly thing to do, many states have statutes in place that prohibit unauthorized use of someone else’s WiFi.
For example, California, Michigan, New York, and Florida all have laws in place. So in these states (and others), if your neighbor finds out you were using their WiFi without permission, they can file charges. You could receive a fine. Florida has even sentenced people to jail.
There is no federal law as of yet that stops someone from using another person’s internet connection. The Computer Fraud Act of 1986 comes close, but WiFi was not a thing in 1986, so it’s not specifically outlined in the bill.
Internet Service Providers often put restrictions on using other people’s WiFi as well. Some track the usage of their customers.
If the company sees that usage is higher than normal, they will investigate. Your neighbor could end up paying more and may even be fined.
There are even more reasons not to use your unprotected or unauthorized WiFi.
One is a practice called honeypotting. While you may think you’ve hit the jackpot with a connection that has no password, think again.
Often, scammers will set up a connection like this to collect your information. It doesn’t take much once you’re on their internet for them to gather your information.
They can end up with credit card numbers, passwords to other sites, and other private data.
Next, if it is your neighbor and they are tech-savvy, they may be able to see exactly what sites you visit and what you’re doing.
There is software on the market that is specifically made for this purpose.
Log-ins, data usage, sites visited, and time spent on a site can all be tracked by this software! You may not want the entire neighborhood knowing what you Google!
Ask Your Neighbor
If, for whatever reason, you cannot get your own WiFi and need to use your neighbors, it is best to ask them.
You may be pleasantly surprised at their reaction. Most people have been through hard times, so if you explain your situation politely they are likely to understand and work with you.
Offer to pay them something. It’s always appreciated that you’re just not trying to get a free ride. Set up some rules.
Maybe you can promise only to use it when they are not home or during “off” hours.
Just hook up one device at a time. Make sure you ask how they want to go about it and then stick to the agreement.
Guidelines are important to have because things like a weak signal, dead spots, and overcrowding of the network can occur if too many people are using the same connection at once.
You could offer to buy an extender or other piece of equipment that will enhance the connection for both of you.
You may also offer to pay for more bandwidth, which will give a stronger signal. Try to come to a mutual solution.
So this is the answer. It is illegal to use your neighbors’ WiFi without permission. It may also be illegal in your individual state. Certain internet service providers may also not allow it.
It’s always best to try and have your own WiFi connection. Many internet service providers have inexpensive plans.
Some even offer discounts for older people, students, and people with lower incomes. But, if you are really in a jam, ask your neighbor. Do not just take it because it is stealing! It’s also rude.
Remember too not to piggyback onto any unsecured networks. If you’re on there illegally, chances are other people are too and they might want to do more than just check their email. It’s always best to be open and honest rather than sneaky and slick!
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