Since he got wi-fi, Alex Smith has got used to finding Kevin and Brian lurking around his house. In fact, as long as everybody’s secured their broadband, it’s a good way to meet the neighbours …
I was surprised to find Kevin and Brian in my bedroom the other night. But it wasn’t the first time. I’ve had visitors for a while now – sometimes they’re in the living room or kitchen. Once I even caught somebody called Belkin in the bathroom. One of the wonders of wi-fi is that you get to know your neighbours.
It’s good to see that they’ve secured their wireless systems, so even though my laptop can detect the presence of another connection nearby, I can’t sift through their emails or catch up on Hollyoaks over their broadband network. Securing a network is easy, but recent reports of wi-fi “theft” suggest that not everybody is prepared to spend five minutes doing so.
Redditch, for some reason, is a wi-fi theft hot-spot – two people were recently cautioned for “dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment”, after crawling around in cars at night looking for open networks.
It’s a tempting crime. I confess I’ve occasionally tuned into unsecured networks that my laptop has automatically found.
Wi-fi has also been in the news because of safety doubts. There is no evidence to suggest that the radio waves are slowly radiating us to death, but nobody can be sure. There are plenty who think so – Newsnight this week featured a women who wears a metallic mesh helmet to block wi-fi waves, which she believes causes headaches. Some schools are turning theirs off, fearing it affects children.
The government has said little on the subject but claims it will consider it at a conference on electrosensitivity next year.
Meanwhile, I’m playing it safe and switching off my router when I don’t need it – although I’m sure it won’t make much difference, what with Kevin, Brian and Belkin showering me with radio waves all night.
Alex Smith is Building’s web editor
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