Could I steal your Internet?

Here’s something to chew on with your friends at your next hookah session: can you steal something that’s not real?What I’m talking about is that completely artificial cyber-world floating all around us made up of about four billion porn sites. Yes, I’m talking about the Internet.So, is it a crime to steal something that is intangible like the Internet?Regardless of how you and I feel about the matter, the Feds get their say as well, and although there is no clear line in the sand to cross concerning the matter of stealing or “piggybacking” an Internet connection, the Federal Communications Commission deems it as a “theft of services.” I am actually breaking the law right now. Well, not right at this moment, but I was researching this column while on an open wireless connection that did not belong to me. It would have been some sick form of irony to get busted by the Federal Communications Commission for stealing the Internet while researching a column about stealing the Internet, wouldn’t it?Now this stealing the Internet thing is one of those “everybody does it” sort of things, like downloading music illegally. No one really gets in trouble, do they? That’s what you would think, at least.Try telling that to Benjamin Smith III of Saint Petersburg, Fla. He was charged with third-degree felony trespassing for piggybacking on a neighbor’s wireless connection to play online games.This is just one of a dozen or so cases involving Internet thefts that have been popping up all over the country for years. Some of the crimes are serious: death threats sent over someone else’s network, child porn trafficking, data theft and credit fraud, to name a few. However, others, like Smith’s, stand out as plain petty crimes.But there is hope for those still brave enough to hop on the free Internet express!In August 2008, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Or.) introduced bill S. 3420 to the Senate, which outlined his plan for the future of the Internet. Now I understand “broctojoules,” “microelectronvolts” and “electromagnetic compatibility” about as little as the next person, but I do understand what “free” means. Wyden’s bill would “require the FCC to auction spectrum for a free and open access wireless service.” In short: free Internet for everyone!The bill has since disappeared somewhere in the bowels of the Capitol building, but you can help fight the good fight! If you want the Internet to be something free for all, send your state rep an e-mail to tell them you know of and support this bill and want it back on the table and passed! I plan to do so as soon as I figure out my neighbor’s new wireless network password.