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Another Incident Of Dumb Cops Arresting A Guy For Using An Open Wi-Fi Connection
Information Week ^ | Jun 1, 2007 | Mitch Wagner

Posted on 06/02/2007 1:03:33 PM PDT by Sleeping Beauty

A Michigan cop, who'd obviously been hit over the head with a billy club one time too many, levied criminal charges against a man who used an open, public Wi-Fi network outside the cafe that was running it.

The dastardly computer criminal, Sam Peterson II, of Cedar Springs, Mich., chose to pay a $400 fine, do 40 hours of community service, and stay on probation six months.

Peterson has no criminal record. He's a 39-year-old toolmaker, volunteer firefighter, and secretary of a bagpipe band.

Peterson had gotten in the habit of checking e-mail on his lunch break in front of the Re-Union Street Cafe in Sparta, Mich. "[I]instead of going inside the shop to use the free Wi-Fi offered to paying customers, he chose to remain in his car and piggyback off the network, which he said didn't require a password," according to the article from Fox News. He did it on lunch breaks for more than a week.

Now, here's where the craziness starts.

Someone in a nearby barbershop saw Peterson's car pull up every day and sit in front of the coffee shop without anybody getting out.

A sane person would have knocked on Peterson's window and said, "Dude, I noticed you come here and sit in your car every day? What's up with that?"

But of course we live in paranoid times.

So the dummy in the barbershop called the cops.

Sparta Police Chief Andrew Milanowski asked Peterson where he got the Internet connection, and Petsron said from the cafe.

Now, the story so far is shocking enough, but it gets even more shocking:

Milanowski ruled out Peterson as a possible stalker of the attractive local hairdresser, but still felt that a law might have been broken.

"We came back and we looked up the laws and we figured if we found one and thought, 'Well, let's run it by the prosecutor's office and see what they want to do,'" Milanowski said.

Here's how that reads to me: They don't care about who's using Wi-Fi in Sparta, Mich. The police chief just didn't like the way Peterson parted his hair, and so he dug and dug and dug until he found something he could charge Peterson with.

Peterson copped a plea. If he'd fought it, he could have faced a sentence of up to five years in jail, and a $10,000 fine.

Sparta, Mich. residents, when you pay your tax bills, I want you to think about how this kind of nonsense is how your government is spending your money.

Laws like the Michigan law are pretty common, and they're just plain bad law.

A reasonable person encountering an open Wi-Fi connection will assume it's open until finding evidence otherwise. But most hacking laws assume the opposite -- you need to be told that you can use the Wi-Fi connection or else the law assumes you're a criminal.

In the real world, landowners are required to post their land as private property before accusing someone else of trespassing. The law correctly recognizes that you can't accuse people of crossing boundaries unless they're told where the boundaries. Laws governing Wi-Fi should be written similarly. If you want to keep trespassers off your network, you should password-protect it.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: crime
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Have you committed a Wi-Fi crime?
1 posted on 06/02/2007 1:03:38 PM PDT by Sleeping Beauty
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To: Sleeping Beauty

Only while armed with a deadly weapon.


2 posted on 06/02/2007 1:07:41 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Sleeping Beauty

No, I haven’t; but if the connection is free and this guy drives up everyday; don’t you think someone in the cafe would have noticed him? They probably knew what he was doing.


3 posted on 06/02/2007 1:09:57 PM PDT by freekitty
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To: Sleeping Beauty

In other news, several kids were taken to juvenile for water theft after running through a neighbor’s sprinker.


4 posted on 06/02/2007 1:11:33 PM PDT by Larry Lucido (Duncan Hunter 2008 (or Fred Thompson if he ever makes up his mind))
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To: Sleeping Beauty
A sane person stupid idiot would have knocked on Peterson's window and said, "Dude, I noticed you come here and sit in your car every day? What's up with that?"

This is pretty much the behavior of a stalker or someone who is up to no good. Calling the police was a reasonable action.

Milanowski ruled out Peterson as a possible stalker of the attractive local hairdresser, but still felt that a law might have been broken.

Far more likely is Peterson was actually stalking but they didn't have enough proof to charge him with the actual deed.

Have you committed a Wi-Fi crime?

No. And I don't drink out of other people's garden hoses or pick their flowers even if their land is not posted either.

5 posted on 06/02/2007 1:12:00 PM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (Under advise from my lawyer I am now known as "Mostly Harmless Teddy Bear")
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To: Sleeping Beauty

I imagine they should start carrying a warning on all those devices you can get that search for/find open WiFi for you when you’re on the road.

What doesn’t quite wash is the cafe owner who said the guy could sit in there without ever buying anything. I seriously doubt that. No restaurant lets anyone sit in a seat and not ever buy anything, let alone make use of the free WiFi. If she was being truthful, my only guess would be she’s was desperate for business and wanted to look like the place was busier.


6 posted on 06/02/2007 1:26:35 PM PDT by visualops (artlife.us)
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To: Sleeping Beauty

If he is a Volly, then his community service is covered. was there a sign that only customers could use the wi-fi? Was there a banner on the access point telling non customers to go away and not trespass? If not I believe he would have won.


7 posted on 06/02/2007 1:27:47 PM PDT by Sam Ketcham (Amnesty means vote dilution, & increased taxes to bring us down to the world poverty level.)
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To: Sleeping Beauty
Have you committed a Wi-Fi crime?

Actually, yes.

I was at the horse auctions up in Saratoga. I had to go up to Vt afterwards for business, so I got my laptop out of the trunk of my car to look at maps for the best route to take. (The maps are on my hard drive so I don't use the internet to do this.) While checking the maps, I noticed the little systray icon indicated I was connected. So I checked out FR for the latest news, and looked at my email to see if anyone wrote to me. This is a crime? If the people who have the connection do not want me to do this, they can either hide or encrypt the connection. Maybe it should be against the law to have an open connection thus tempting the unwary to check their email?

ML/NJ

8 posted on 06/02/2007 1:28:57 PM PDT by ml/nj
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To: muawiyah

I wonder how one can tell if a public wi fi connection is one where the sponsor does not care if passersby hop on from one that that the sponsor does care? There ar eboth kinds in my experience, but there is no clear way to tell


9 posted on 06/02/2007 1:29:59 PM PDT by PackerBoy (Just my opinion ....)
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To: Sam Ketcham
If not I believe he would have won.

Perhaps, if the judge/magistrate didn't go to the same schools as the cop and the prosecutor. If he did, probably thinks the same way.

"We came back and we looked up the laws and we figured if we found one and thought, 'Well, let's run it by the prosecutor's office and see what they want to do,'" Milanowski said.

10 posted on 06/02/2007 1:32:25 PM PDT by Abby4116
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear
Far more likely is Peterson was actually stalking but they didn't have enough proof to charge him with the actual deed.

I think it's more likely he had a bad attitude, and most likely a Ron Paul supporter.

11 posted on 06/02/2007 1:32:33 PM PDT by Moonman62 (The issue of whether cheap labor makes America great should have been settled by the Civil War.)
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To: ml/nj

I’m a criminal, too.

I live in a complex and have my own wi-fi connection (with encryption). Just the other day, I noticed that I was “roaming” on other people’s wi-fis — because they didn’t bother to password protect.

There’s a half dozen or so open connections in my range.


12 posted on 06/02/2007 1:34:49 PM PDT by Sleeping Beauty
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To: Sleeping Beauty

if the wi-fi is owned by the coffee shop, they would have had to have pressed charges. right? you need a complainant.


13 posted on 06/02/2007 1:35:24 PM PDT by thefactor
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear
"Far more likely is Peterson was actually stalking but they didn't have enough proof to charge him with the actual deed.

(snicker)

14 posted on 06/02/2007 1:35:59 PM PDT by Sam's Army
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To: Sleeping Beauty

There is the spirit of the law and the letter of the law. What he did may have violated the law, but a simple warning could have sufficed here. The people should have this Chief removed. If crime is so low that the Chief had that much time to waste, then maybe the people don’t need a Chief. A security guard would do.


15 posted on 06/02/2007 1:36:38 PM PDT by Enterprise (I can't talk about liberals anymore because some of the words will get me sent to rehab.)
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To: Sleeping Beauty
Moral of the story: Never tell the cops anything when they stop you without probable cause.

First, say "Am I under arrest?"

If the answer is "no," say "Am I free to go?"

If the answer is again "no," say "Am I being illegally detained?"

If you are not on your way within thirty seconds, tell them you want to speak to an attorney.

And never, ever, ever admit anything. Period.

16 posted on 06/02/2007 1:36:55 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum ("All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder." --Frederic Bastiat)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear
This is pretty much the behavior of a stalker or someone who is up to no good.

Not to mention the fact that he plays the bagpipes. Probably without underpants.

17 posted on 06/02/2007 1:37:37 PM PDT by Sleeping Beauty
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To: Sleeping Beauty

I wouldn’t use someone’s phone without asking, why would I use their internet connection without asking?


18 posted on 06/02/2007 1:38:25 PM PDT by Raycpa
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To: Sleeping Beauty

He was only using the Wi-Fi that Americans won’t use.


19 posted on 06/02/2007 1:41:21 PM PDT by Edgar3 (Steve Spurrier for President!)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
Thanks! I printed this one out. I many needlepoint it onto a little pillow.

First, say "Am I under arrest?"

If the answer is "no," say "Am I free to go?"

If the answer is again "no," say "Am I being illegally detained?"

If you are not on your way within thirty seconds, tell them you want to speak to an attorney.

And never, ever, ever admit anything. Period.

20 posted on 06/02/2007 1:42:55 PM PDT by Sleeping Beauty
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear
This is pretty much the behavior of a stalker or someone who is up to no good.

This is pretty much the behavior of many people on their lunch break.

If someone doesn't want to share their wi-fi they should put a password on it. Otherwise they are, in fact, sharing it. The law doesn't properly match the way this works.

21 posted on 06/02/2007 1:42:59 PM PDT by FreePoster (Duncan Hunter in 2008)
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To: Sleeping Beauty

Amnesty for all of the unprotected network users!


22 posted on 06/02/2007 1:43:35 PM PDT by Edgar3 (Steve Spurrier for President!)
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To: Raycpa

So if your outside standing under a street lamp reading the newspaper, can they charge your with theft of electricity?


23 posted on 06/02/2007 1:45:42 PM PDT by Jambe
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To: ml/nj
I leave my wifi open to be nice to others as I tend to use open connections when on the road too. I notice contractor pickups parked on the street checking their e-mail, so I believe that it is being used. (The wifi sits below much of the rest of the home network and doesn't seem to be much of a risk - the unit is pw protected so others can't easily reconfigure).

The cops sure love to look through the excessive # of laws we have if they want to screw u. Seen it happen.

24 posted on 06/02/2007 1:46:38 PM PDT by Paladin2 (Islam is the religion of violins, NOT peas.)
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To: Raycpa
I wouldn’t use someone’s phone without asking, why would I use their internet connection without asking?

He did ask. More accurately, his computer did when it requested access. Since the access was granted, he was using it with the permission of the network and, by extension, its owner.

25 posted on 06/02/2007 1:48:28 PM PDT by Bob
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
Never tell the cops anything when they stop you without probable cause.

True indeed, but even showing a hint of belligerence is foolishly playing with fire.

First say "What can I do for you, officer?" or "Is something wrong?"

This guy should not have been using the connection in the first place, but definitely should have closed his browser and opened a game program when he saw a cop coming.

26 posted on 06/02/2007 1:49:03 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (Peace Begins in the Womb)
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To: thefactor
if the wi-fi is owned by the coffee shop, they would have had to have pressed charges. right?

Not necessarily, if its a violation of state or federal law.

27 posted on 06/02/2007 1:59:46 PM PDT by Minutemen ("It's a Religion of Peace")
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To: Raycpa

Have you ever sat outside a club or store and listened to the music they’re playing inside?

“Officer, that man is sitting outside and he’s LISTENING to our music, but he’s not BUYING anything. Arrest him.”


28 posted on 06/02/2007 2:00:16 PM PDT by savedbygrace (SECURE THE BORDERS FIRST (I'M YELLING ON PURPOSE))
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To: Larry Lucido

“In other news, several kids were taken to juvenile for water theft after running through a neighbor’s sprinker.”

Yes, and we’re all going to be arrested for enjoying the smells outside of bakeries and restaurants as well. Hopefully a sane judge will award the damaged parties a monetary penalty of the sound of loose change jingling.


29 posted on 06/02/2007 2:01:18 PM PDT by Rb ver. 2.0 (The Republican party of today is the Whig party of 1856.)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear
Far more likely is Peterson was actually stalking but they didn't have enough proof to charge him with the actual deed.

Ah, I see you are a law enforcement officer.
That's a philosophy that would lock everyone up until they can prove there's no reason to.

30 posted on 06/02/2007 2:03:20 PM PDT by feedback doctor (I didn't leave the Republican Party, it left me)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear

“Far more likely is Peterson was actually stalking but they didn’t have enough proof to charge him with the actual deed.”

If I were a cop you shouldn’t have any reason to deny my a request to search your car or house.


31 posted on 06/02/2007 2:07:47 PM PDT by Rb ver. 2.0 (The Republican party of today is the Whig party of 1856.)
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To: Rb ver. 2.0
Do all you sniffing outside Jimmy John's, just to play it safe. :-)


32 posted on 06/02/2007 2:10:41 PM PDT by Larry Lucido (Duncan Hunter 2008 (or Fred Thompson if he ever makes up his mind))
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To: Jeff Chandler
True indeed, but even showing a hint of belligerence is foolishly playing with fire.

I didn't say be belligerent. I just said don't tell them anything. You can do that very politely. "I'm just sitting here in my car deciding if I want a latte' or a capuccino, officer."

33 posted on 06/02/2007 2:19:06 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum ("All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder." --Frederic Bastiat)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
I didn't say be belligerent. I just said don't tell them anything. You can do that very politely.

Yes, but I would NEVER ask a cop if I were under arrest or if I were being detained illegally. Diplomacy works best with cops because you never know when you are dealing with someone drunk on power. You always want to act as if you are on their side and respect their authority, even if the cop you are dealing with is a stupid jerk.

34 posted on 06/02/2007 2:33:36 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (Peace Begins in the Womb)
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To: Sleeping Beauty
“”We came back and we looked up the laws and we figured if we found one and thought, ‘Well, let’s run it by the prosecutor’s office and see what they want to do,’” Milanowski said.”

The solution to stupidity like this, is to reduce the offending law enforcement entities budget by 25% immediately.

As Reagan did, defund the b@#tards.

35 posted on 06/02/2007 2:38:07 PM PDT by HereInTheHeartland (Never bring a knife to a gun fight, or a Democrat to do serious work...)
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To: Jeff Chandler

The list, for what it’s worth, sounds like an ACLU recommendation. They like to see officers baited into confrontations, because they take the philosophy that revenge is best served cold.


36 posted on 06/02/2007 2:40:37 PM PDT by drlevy88
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

Best advice I’ve ever heard.


37 posted on 06/02/2007 2:41:29 PM PDT by Leatherneck_MT (Famously frisky)
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To: Sleeping Beauty
Dumb Cop?
Craziness?
Being hit on the head with a billy club one too many times?

The only doofus I see in this story is the author.

The old "if you don't actually lose anything in the process, I can steal anything I want any time" criminal posture still doesn't do it for me.
The Bevis and Butthead mentality.

Is this Einstein writer aware that "freeloading" wireless criminals have stolen hundreds of thousands of accounts and identities?

Last I checked, it's illegal to rob banks even if the front doors are unlocked. Ditto for burglarizing homes or automobiles.

Blaming the victims is a non-starter.

The freeloading criminals stealing music for years are seriously attempting to make this type of crime "normal" and not a big deal.

38 posted on 06/02/2007 2:45:23 PM PDT by Publius6961 (MSM: Israelis are killed by rockets; Lebanese are killed by Israelis.)
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To: thefactor
I’m wondering if this “open” wi-fi was of the type that when you connect to the signal, you get a “terms” page that you have to click accept on before proceeding. 5 out of the 6 places I’ve recently been to that advertises it has wi-fi has had these “terms” pages to go through first. Prominently listed on those pages was the boilerplate language that states that the wi-fi is for the intended use of customers and by clicking on the “accept” button, you agree to the terms.
39 posted on 06/02/2007 2:47:37 PM PDT by jettester (I got paid to break 'em - not fly 'em)
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To: Publius6961
Is this Einstein writer aware that "freeloading" wireless criminals have stolen hundreds of thousands of accounts and identities?

An identity thief can in fact set up to mimic a Wi-Fi server and do man-in-the-middle attacks like this. But this wasn't happening here, or it would have been found by investigators upon getting the guy's laptop. Not to say it shouldn't be deemed a crime, but something like this is much more like petty shoplifting than it is like murder.

40 posted on 06/02/2007 2:49:05 PM PDT by drlevy88
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To: Jambe
So if your outside standing under a street lamp reading the newspaper, can they charge your with theft of electricity?

No, genius.
Street lights are installed for precisely that purpose.

Try again.

41 posted on 06/02/2007 2:50:23 PM PDT by Publius6961 (MSM: Israelis are killed by rockets; Lebanese are killed by Israelis.)
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To: Bob
He did ask. More accurately, his computer did when it requested access. Since the access was granted, he was using it with the permission of the network and, by extension, its owner.

Uhh. I don't thinks so.
Put down the crack pipe and the ipod and try again...

42 posted on 06/02/2007 2:51:35 PM PDT by Publius6961 (MSM: Israelis are killed by rockets; Lebanese are killed by Israelis.)
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To: ml/nj

So I checked out FR for the latest news, and looked at my email to see if anyone wrote to me. This is a crime?

You committed two crimes. The worst of the two was being a conservative checking out FreeRepublic. In today’s way of thinking, liberals, would have have you taken to an insane asylum for being a conservative.


43 posted on 06/02/2007 2:55:40 PM PDT by antiunion person (Freedom of speech as long as it's liberal speech)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear
He was legally parked.
His computer detected a wireless network.
His computer ASKED FOR PERMISSION to connect to the wireless network.
The wireless network GRANTED PERMISSION to his computer and allowed him access to the internet.

Where was the crime? He should have fought this.

44 posted on 06/02/2007 2:58:12 PM PDT by SC Swamp Fox (Join our Folding@Home team (Team# 36120) keyword: folding)
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To: ml/nj
Maybe it should be against the law to have an open connection thus tempting the unwary to check their email?

These unprotected private servers have likely violated the terms of their ISP agreement, at least as far as the legal position that their ISP would be likely to take. But the only legal thing you could do would be to refrain from connecting and report the situation to the ISP carriers in the area.

45 posted on 06/02/2007 3:00:01 PM PDT by drlevy88
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To: feedback doctor
Nope someone who was stalked by a genuine off his meds loony.

And your attitude was the kind the cops in my area had.

46 posted on 06/02/2007 3:02:20 PM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (Under advise from my lawyer I am now known as "Mostly Harmless Teddy Bear")
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To: Rb ver. 2.0
If I were a cop.....

If that is your goal in life I know just the city where you should apply for a "job".

47 posted on 06/02/2007 3:04:47 PM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (Under advise from my lawyer I am now known as "Mostly Harmless Teddy Bear")
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To: Raycpa
"I wouldn’t use someone’s phone without asking, why would I use their internet connection without asking?"

In this case the open connection is a public accommodation. Should someone be charged for walking inside and using their public restroom?

48 posted on 06/02/2007 3:05:50 PM PDT by KoRn (Just Say NO ....To Liberal Republicans - FRED THOMPSON FOR PRESIDENT!)
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To: PackerBoy
Wi-Fi providers are using the "public airwaves" and are regulated by various federal laws.

Not sure where these local guys come off doing anything about it.

49 posted on 06/02/2007 3:06:38 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: FreePoster
This is pretty much the behavior of many people on their lunch break.

Nope. Few people get in their car, drive to another parking lot (the same one every time) and sit there through their lunch hour.

Never going in, never getting out of their car, just sitting there.

50 posted on 06/02/2007 3:09:35 PM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (Under advise from my lawyer I am now known as "Mostly Harmless Teddy Bear")
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