How To Get Online For Free

This article originally appeared in 24hrs Vancouver on October 29, 2008.

Even though the economy is about to take a dive, there are two things Canadians won’t cut from the luxury list: cell phones and internet access.

“Many consumers, with minor exceptions, view these as essential utilities, like water or electricity,” says a report from Solutions Research Group which was compiled to find out where Canadians are likely to penny pinch in tough times.

However, there are ways to try and tighten the purse strings a bit and get some of your surfing for nothing and your web for free.

More than 23 Million Canadians use the web, 19 Million of us carry mobile phones, so why not use one to access the other?

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Gary Ng runs, a website dedicated to news and tips for Canadian iPhone users. More than 25 000 people have viewed his post about jailbreaking the iPhone.

A jailbroken iPhone has the ability to run 3rd party applications not approved by Apple, one of those is PDANet which allows you to tether your iPhone to a computer, which means you can use the iPhone as a modem to access the internet.

Gary says it’s not expressly forbidden by Rogers in Canada, but using your iPhone as a modem to save money, could end up costing you more.

Last year, Piotr Staniaszek from Calgary was faced with an $85 000 bill from Bell after using his mobile as a modem with what he thought was an unlimited browsing plan.

“Overages on data use would cost you an arm and a leg,” says Gary. “Light surfing is ok, but daily tethering needs the 6 gig plan from Rogers.”

If you live in a densely populated area, poaching internet from open access points is a breeze.

Simply click on your mobile connection and look for an unsecured wifi port. Usually the open access points are labeled linksys, the same name as a popular wireless router, and the default setting for those who don’t use passwords.

For those in high rises, finding a friendly neighbour with an open point is just as easy.

“I can see 50 access points from my balcony in the West End,” admits Tyler Ingram, who until recently used to live off the readily available wifi of others.

Brian LeRoux purposely leaves his connection open in his apartment, as a public service. “The internet is owned by no one and everyone (the public) and as such it should be free for everyone to access and use.”



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  1. October 29, 2008

    Thanks Buzz!

    There are a bunch of publicly accessible access points around the West End though I find that more and more are switching to using some sort of encryption security method. If you do not wish to have people leech from your WiFi signal then I suggest at least running WPA with MAC Authentication turned on. WEP can be cracked in under 10 minutes (in some cases less than 5). I am not saying WPA, WPA2 etc cannot be cracked it just takes a little bit more time and resources to do so and less likely to be a target.

    If you are willing to share your Wireless Internet then you should at least try and throttle (limit) the bandwidth that people will be able to use once connected. Say you are with Shaw and you have ~5000kbps download speed without any sort of throttling (or limit or Quality of Service) the person attaching themselves to your wireless network will be able to take all your bandwidth for their purposes (good or bad) and leave you with a pretty slow internet experience. Also leaving your wireless access point open to the public would also allow dishonest people to use your connection to do their evil deeds.

    Oh another note… if you do have a wireless access point and leave it open to the public, you are allowing someone else’s computer access to your network. If you have shared folders or shared networks drives without any sort of security (which is the case for majority of the populous) you are allowing people access to your files such as bank account statements, email, photos and more.

    Whew… think I am done..

  2. October 29, 2008

    Thanks for the article Buzz. Tethering with PDANet is awesome, but it kills your iPhone battery like no tomorrow–even with it plugged into an AC outlet! It definitely comes in handy when you need internet access though. Makes me love my iPhone even more! 😉

  3. October 30, 2008

    I’d have to disagree with Brian. Yes, the Internet belongs to no one and everyone, but access belongs to the person providing it. Leaving your WiFi network unsecured would be akin to leaving your phone on the street for public use. It’s your phone and you’re paying for the service. By extension, it’s your modem (and Internet access) and you’re paying for the service.

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