Apple's Steve Jobs had vision of building an open Wi-Fi utopia

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2014
Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs is said to have been unhappy with the high cost and slow speed of mobile data networks, and hoped to solve the problem by convincing consumers and businesses to share their high-speed Internet connections via free and open "guest" Wi-Fi networks.




Jobs planned a "sort of consortium" of technology companies and network manufacturers to implement his idea, according to Re/code's Walt Mossberg. Owners of any Wi-Fi-connected device could then take advantage of those hotspots, rather than using cellular modems or being forced to pay to connect.

As noted by Mossberg, a number of firms -- mainly telecommunications providers -- have since implemented a similar idea. Comcast offers such an option with its home routers in the U.S., while European and Asian telecoms including Three, Fon, Iliad, and others offer customers free Wi-Fi roaming in their respective geographies.

Apple, for its part, did build a "guest network" option into its AirPort series of internet routers. According to the company, a user's "primary network, including [their] printer, attached drives, or other devices remains secure" despite the presence of the guest network.

Some other manufacturers have followed suit, and the Open Wireless Movement -- backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, and others -- has released special firmware designed to allow users of some consumer routers lacking the feature to enable it.

According to that group, offloading data transfer from mobile networks to their Wi-Fi cousins would bring a number of benefits. In addition to increasing the availability of internet access to groups that may not be able to afford it and enabling new, innovative technologies that require high-bandwidth connections, it would make much more efficient use of the finite amount of available wireless spectrum.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71
    customtbcustomtb Posts: 345member
    Wireless Utopia... but i imagine it would often turn into the guy next door deciding he didn't need service of his own.
  • Reply 2 of 71
    lightknightlightknight Posts: 2,312member
    Given the laws in place to "protect [us] from terrorism" in many western countries, which basically requires you to be able to identify anyone who connects to your network and keep logs for up to 5 years... DOA, wasn't it? Especially since MAC adresses can be spoofed/software reset.
  • Reply 3 of 71
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member

    I get the idea, but why should I pay to allow John Q. Public to mooch my Internet speed?

  • Reply 4 of 71
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

     


    This is not my area of expertise, but I was under the impression that 'no password' meant that the data was not encrypted. I always use my cell connection instead of free open wifi because you can't really trust what the owners of the wifi or rogue hacker packet sniffers are up to.

  • Reply 5 of 71
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,614member
    This is a nice vision - for a world without bad guys.
  • Reply 6 of 71
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,519member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lightknight View Post



    Given the laws in place to "protect [us] from terrorism" in many western countries, which basically requires you to be able to identify anyone who connects to your network and keep logs for up to 5 years... DOA, wasn't it? Especially since MAC adresses can be spoofed/software reset.

    I haven't seen this requirement in the western country I live in and I have no way to provide this information if someone asked me. My Airport Extreme lists wireless clients but doesn't keep a log, at least not when running the current version of Airport Utility. 

  • Reply 7 of 71
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member
    Great idea. But as a first step Apple should do done supporting of the whole fiber game. Perhaps with public hotspots in utility boxes or such. Make sharing your house line a later step
  • Reply 8 of 71
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,519member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post

     

    This is not my area of expertise, but I was under the impression that 'no password' meant that the data was not encrypted. I always use my cell connection instead of free open wifi because you can't really trust what the owners of the wifi or rogue hacker packet sniffers are up to.


    I just checked and you're right. You can set encryption (WPA/WPA2) but these need a password. Of course, it wouldn't take much publicity to get people to use a standard password. This means a user would still have to enter the password for every password-protected guest network but maybe that could be automated. 

     

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but even if a hacker makes the guest connection using my password-protected guest connection, all they would see is their traffic and possibly other guests, but not mine.

  • Reply 9 of 71
    Wifi isn't cheap or free due to price gouging
  • Reply 10 of 71
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,519member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by charlituna View Post



    Great idea. But as a first step Apple should do done supporting of the whole fiber game. Perhaps with public hotspots in utility boxes or such. Make sharing your house line a later step

    In the best of worlds, all this fiber would be placed underground so it's less susceptible to damage. Unless you want to push power over the fiber, you'll still need power for the wireless routers in the utility boxes, which can be on the ground or up a pole, unless of course you don't have poles. I'm not against providing fiber or broadband to every house, it's just not as easy as many people think. I just had part of my front yard dug up to replace the Comcast cable for next door. The distribution box was on my other neighbor's and my property line. Luckily they didn't damage my yard and had a path to go in but in many areas this wouldn't be the case. For new construction, the state of WA now requires conduit but my cable is direct buried so I wouldn't be able to get a new feed to my house without digging a trench. Wireless takes care of this but you're trading one overloaded network for another. I like direct connected ethernet, which is harder to sniff than a wireless network. I could see installing several WiFi towers in my neighborhood as a better expenditure of my HOA dues, providing both free outdoor WiFi and better cell coverage through an AT&T microcell or something equivalent. One solution doesn't fit everyone's needs or environment.

  • Reply 11 of 71
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,544member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

    I get the idea, but why should I pay to allow John Q. Public to mooch my Internet speed?


    If it makes the idea easier to accept, think of it as a tax.

     

    :D 

  • Reply 12 of 71
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,540member
    I get the idea, but why should I pay to allow John Q. Public to mooch my Internet speed?

    Meh - it's pretty easy to limit the guest activity so that it doesn't impact your speed or experience. The real elephant in the room is the fallacy of "unlimited" internet. It's a marketing scam and if it was unlimited we wouldn't see complaints about people getting throttled if their usage exceeds some set point. So much for truth in advertising. Also sharing service is almost always against the terms of use of your agreement with your ISP - again due to the whole unlimited not really being unlimited.
  • Reply 13 of 71
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

    I get the idea, but why should I pay to allow John Q. Public to mooch my Internet speed?


    If it makes the idea easier to accept, think of it as a tax.

     

    :D 


    And because they don't have or can't afford their own wifi, their bandwidth gets priority over yours. Of course, if that bandwidth is piracy or child porn, you the account holder will still be responsible, even if you have logs. You "knew or reasonably should have known" this could happen. Have a nice life after that.

  • Reply 14 of 71
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,540member
    mstone wrote: »
    This is not my area of expertise, but I was under the impression that 'no password' meant that the data was not encrypted. I always use my cell connection instead of free open wifi because you can't really trust what the owners of the wifi or rogue hacker packet sniffers are up to.

    Your cell connection can be sniffed - not as easily as wifi but it's not that hard for someone determined to be bad. Session encryption is the only answer. Only connect to sites that use HTTPS, and make sure your email accounts are all using SSL (a good idea period, no matter where your machine is). If your email provider doesn't support SSL, the switch providers! Yes, it's that serious.

    Right now I'm relying on the minor difficulty increase of cell vs. wifi for sniffing, but I really need to get off my duff and set a VPN up. I use pfSense on my firewall at home so it's not like it's a huge hardship to set it up. There are some really nice OpenVPN clients for iOS devices and with iOS 8 I imagine they will get better. If you don't want to set up your own VPN, there are VPN services for as little as $5 a month - they are a VERY good idea if you travel with your iOS device and need to use open wifi for whatever reasons.
  • Reply 15 of 71
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    mstone wrote: »
    This is not my area of expertise, but I was under the impression that 'no password' meant that the data was not encrypted. I always use my cell connection instead of free open wifi because you can't really trust what the owners of the wifi or rogue hacker packet sniffers are up to.

    That is correct. Their statement "your primary [wireless] network remains secure" means that you're not interacting with the guest wireless network and that anyone using it will not have any access to your primary wireless network which also connects to the built-in switch and USB port. Of course, you will need to use a password and encryption on your primary wireless network for it to be secure.

    rob53 wrote: »
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but even if a hacker makes the guest connection using my password-protected guest connection, all they would see is their traffic and possibly other guests, but not mine.

    That is correct. It's essentially the same as having two discreet wireless routers in your home where one is for guests and is connected outside a firewall that only access to the Internet. The only way that becomes less secure if there is some bug that can be explored since it is still the same HW and firmware for the simultaneous dual-band setup, but I think that's unlikely.
  • Reply 16 of 71
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member

    British Telecom's routers have a guest network (of sorts) automatically turned on. If you don't switch it off, you can roam onto any other BT customer's WiFi network (plus BT's public hotspots) for free.

     

    I don't know how much bandwidth the router allocates to guests but it's a neat idea.

     

    4G has made it obsolete where I live though. 

  • Reply 17 of 71
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,540member
    kellya74u wrote: »
    And because they don't have or can't afford their own wifi, their bandwidth gets priority over yours.

    Again, it's trivial through traffic shaping to de-prioritize traffic from guests.
    Of course, if that bandwidth is piracy or child porn, you the account holder will still be responsible, even if you have logs. You "knew or reasonably should have known" this could happen. Have a nice life after that.

    Nice fear-mongering. Its not that cut and dry: https://www.eff.org/files/2014/05/28/open-wifi-copyright.pdf
  • Reply 18 of 71
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

    If it makes the idea easier to accept, think of it as a tax. :D 

     

    Oooh… That’s a sharp one.

     

    Originally Posted by DocNo42 View Post

    Meh - it's pretty easy to limit the guest activity so that it doesn't impact your speed or experience.

     

    You’re right. I limit it to zero bits per second.

     

    But I’m talking specifically about a scenario in which the rumored content of the article above is put into play. What would have been my incentive to let anyone use my crap for free?

  • Reply 19 of 71
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,540member
    What would have been my incentive to let anyone use my crap for free?

    Plausible deniability? Copyright trolls targeting wide swaths of IPs? Proof that an IP address does not equal a person is finally starting to be taken up by the courts. Of course if your ISP is doing it on your AP like Comcast is, the wifi traffic other than yours is probably on an alternate VLAN and extremely easy to differentiate from your activity. From an upstream point what providers like Comcast are doing isn't a big deal - they probably have more than enough bandwidth anyway and traffic shaping can easily prioritize the primary customers traffic so that the connection isn't impacted. Where I see all this free wifi sharing start to fall down is there is only so much radio spectrum, and in urban environments - dense offices or apartments - its overcrowded as it is. Massively increasing use of finite and shared resources doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

    BTW - here is one of the more approachable and easy to read technical articles on wifi I have come across in a while. Good stuff: http://apenwarr.ca/log/?m=201407#14
  • Reply 20 of 71
    I get the idea, but why should I pay to allow John Q. Public to mooch my Internet speed?

    Even better: your IP address can be linked back to criminal activity that you had nothing to do with. The RIAA could sue you because someone using you IP downloaded songs illegally.
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