Using a network named "openwireless.org"? Check out important information about this network.

What is the Open Wireless Movement?

Imagine a future with ubiquitous open Internet.

We envision a world where, in any urban environment:

  • Dozens of open networks are available at your fingertips.
  • Tablets, watches, and other new devices can automatically join these networks to do nifty things.
  • The societal expectation is one of sharing, and, as a result, wireless Internet is more efficient.
  • The false notion that an IP address could be used as a sole identifier is finally a thing of the past, creating a privacy-enhancing norm of shared networks.

We're working with advocates to help change the way people and businesses think about Internet service.

Users

Many people already open their wireless networks. They may not realize it, but they're part of the Open Wireless Movement. We're looking to tap into the potential of these Internet users to help showcase what a world of ubiquitous open wireless would look like.

We're going to be providing users with tools to help keep them maximize security when opening their networks. Our technologists are building routers that let you open your wireless without losing the quality of your Internet access or compromising your security. We're also providing users with information about what to consider when opening your wireless, and a list of ISPs who already allow you to run open networks.

A world of open wireless is one in which digital connections are reliable, efficient, and ultimately benefits users.

Opening your wireless isn't hard. Your router may have a guest networking feature that allows you to portion off your bandwidth for guests to use, while also preserving a protected private network for yourself. We do advocate for the use of useful security technologies likeHTTPS Everywhere or a VPNs and encrypted DNS.

Small businesses

Open wireless is good for small businesses. It can help attract customers who may be seeking a place to check their email or social media accounts. It's also an important community service—a way that every small business can help give back to the world around them. Small businesses, from cafés to bookstores to other kinds of shops, have long served as gathering places for the community to work, study, read, and relax.

Many such shops offer wireless Internet to their customers, though the connection is often password protected or similarly limited. This limits the opportunities for customers to use the networks, and also limits the kinds of services that the business could offer to users.

Often, Internet service providers (ISPs) offer commercial connections that are not only more robust, but also allow for open wireless networks. We encourage businesses to talk to their ISPs about these plans. The Open Wireless Movement is working with businesses to create truly open networks for their customers and the community at large.

ISPs

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not only allow open wireless, they should also encourage it.

Currently, many ISPs have terms of service that do not allow, explicitly or implicitly, the sharing of wireless networks. Some even affirmatively ban it. We want to change this. We believe that lowering the barriers for people to get online, wherever they are, ultimately helps ISPs. People who are used to persistent online connectivity will build it into their lives and insist on having it in their homes, schools, businesses and workplaces. But regardless, together, we can help get rid of blanket terms that prevent users from providing for the public good.

If any ISPs want to talk about how to get involved with the Open Wireless Movement, please contact openwireless@eff.org.

Join the Movement

Spread the Word

In order for this to become a movement, we need you to help spread the word. Tell your family and friends about the Open Wireless Movement through email, social media, word of mouth, or by naming your own open network "openwireless.org"

Tweet your support for the Open Wireless Movement by using the hashtag #openwifi

Embeddable Widgets

Show your support for the Open Wireless Movement by embedding widgets on your website.

Widget Embed Code
<iframe src="https://eff.org/files/2019/11/04/badge.png" width="150" height="196" frameborder="0"></iframe>


Considerate Use Guidelines

Wireless networks labeled with the SSID "openwireless.org" are shared resources volunteered by a neighbor who is a member of the Open Wireless Movement. This person has generously offered you a portion of their bandwidth. Please be considerate when you use it.

In particular, please be thoughtful about bandwidth. Try to avoid watching long or high-definition video streams — they may slow the host's network down significantly. You should never use open wireless for activities which may draw hostile attention to this IP address: hacking, sharing copyright-infringing media, performing large port scans, engaging in denials-of-service, posting harassing or illegal material to forums, or other unlawful or antisocial behavior. Send on this network what you would want others to send from yours.

Termination of Repeat Infringers Policy

It is the policy of the Open Wireless Movement to terminate in appropriate circumstances the accounts of subscribers and account holders of the service provider’s system or network who are repeat infringers.

Applying this Policy to Your Own Network

To inform subscribers and account holders of your system that you have adopted (and will reasonably implement) this repeat infringers policy, please use the SSID "openwireless.org" or post this policy where it can been seen by your subscribers and account holders.

From time to time the Open Wireless Movement may update this policy, but we will attempt to preserve its overall spirit. Some access points may have additional policies that apply to your use. This is not meant to be a complete statement of the applicable policies, and the participant may choose to cut off access at any time.


Myths and Facts About Open Wireless

  • Doesn't opening my wireless network reward "freeloaders"? +

    No way! Most wireless networks use only a small fraction of their capacity. Sharing capacity helps everyone, eliminates waste, and increases the efficiency of the network. And it has nothing to do with freeloaders—if you've ever been without Internet access and needed to check an email, you will remember how useful open networks can be in a pinch.
  • Is opening my network a security risk? +

    If you are running an open network, it is NOT the case that anyone can break into your computer, and you are still, by and large, in a safe situation. If you are running a separate “guest” network apart from your primary network, you have no reason to worry. If you are running an open wireless network as your primary home network, it is important that you understand whether or not your network is set up to allow sharing, or if you can enable wireless isolation to create a firewall between users on the network so that sharing is not possible. If your network is set up to allow sharing, then you should be aware that users of your open network might be able to use devices that are attached to the network, e.g. printers, smart TVs, etc. Moreover, if your computer is set to share files over the network, those files will be accessible to anyone on your network. So if you are running an open network, and don't want strangers printing things or reading your network files, it is important to research whether you can disable sharing on your network, or to carefully check the sharing settings for each computer or device attached to the network.

    Understanding why open networks are generally safe for users requires a little more background. Websites and services that take security seriously use transport layer encryption—most notably Transport Layer Security (TLS), which underlies HTTPS. Using transport layer encryption is the gold standard for security. Since it encrypts data between your computer and the web service you are using, TLS provides a strong level of communication security whether or not you are on an open wireless network. It protects against snooping and attacks from anyone who can read the traffic passing between your computer and the website you are visiting, such as ISPs and governments as well as people on your local wireless network. The security gain from using HTTPS as much as possible is quite significant. This is why we encourage everyone to use our HTTPS Everywhere browser extension.

    On the other hand, WPA2 and other Wi-Fi security schemes protect only against an attacker on your local network, and provide only nominal protection. Very often, "securing" your wireless network will not be enough to thwart a determined attacker on your local network from being able to read and manipulate your data. Therefore, the security loss from moving to an open wireless network is less significant than you might realize, especially if you set up your network to firewall users from each other—as we recommend in our tutorials whenever possible.

    Even if WPA2 and other Wi-Fi security schemes are far from perfect and TLS is a much more comprehensive technological solution for security, we are strong advocates for security at EFF and are working toward longer-term open wireless solutions that provide link-layer security comparable to WPA2 for open networks. Savvy network operators who are concerned about security can also set up their open networks to use a VPN service, if they have access to such a service or are willing to pay for access.

  • Will opening my network make me liable for others' illegal actions? +

    This one is a bit more complicated, but the short answer is, "We don't think so." Click here to find out more.
  • Will opening my wireless network slow down my Internet connection? +

    For users whose routers give them the option of running a second "guest network" that is open, this should not slow down your primary network. We currently have a series of tutorials for how to set these networks up. In the meantime, if your router doesn't have this option, you still will most likely be able to open your network without any noticeable slowdown. Most networks have far more capacity than is used at any given time, and it is unlikely that your guests' usage will affect your experience on the Internet. However, the best test for this is an empirical one: try running an open network! If your open network is noticeably slower and you have some technical know-how, you could try figuring out if there are any power users slowing it down and ban those users, or you could simply revert to a protected network.

Myths and Facts: Running Open Wireless and liability for what others do

Some people do not run open wireless networks because they believe it is legally risky to do so. On the other hand, millions and millions of people have run open wireless for years without running into legal trouble. What's going on?

In the United States, there are strong arguments that the significant legal protections that already apply to ISPs also apply to open wireless operators. We believe these laws greatly reduce the risk of being held liable for the activities of neighbors and passersby. However, some risks do still exist. This page discusses the protections, the risks, and what you can do to minimize them.

Open Wireless, file sharing, and copyright infringement

Operators of open wireless networks may worry that they could be liable if people use their networks to engage in copyright infringement. As we explain in our "Open Wi-Fi and Copyright" whitepaper, however, network providers generally are simply passive conduits for Internet traffic and, absent some additional action (such as encouraging users to use their network to infringe), should not be found legally responsible if the packets passing through happen to contain infringing material.

That being said, some network operators in the United States choose to invoke the additional protections of

Section 512 of the DMCA, which gives service providers a "safe harbor" from liability for infringement by their users. "Service providers" includes open wireless providers, since they are "providers of... network access," and they are also providing routers for "connections for digital online communications, between or among points specified by a user." An Open Wireless access point provides both network access and routing functions, much like any other service provider.

Section 512(i) says that, to qualify for safe harbor protections, a service provider must have a repeat infringer policy—specifically that they must have "adopted and reasonably implemented, and informs subscribers and account holders of the service provider’s system or network of, a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of subscribers and account holders of the service provider’s system or network who are repeat infringers." The statute also clarifies the outer limits of a service providers' obligations are by, for example, including that you do not have to monitor your users in order to enjoy the safe harbor. The application of this section to open wireless access points has not been interpreted by a court, but it may be helpful to have a written policy for your open wireless network.

To help, we have created an Open Wireless Movement policy. If you want to use it, please inform subscribers and account holders of your system that you have adopted (and will reasonably implement) this policy by using the SSID "openwireless.org" or post this policy where it can been seen by your subscribers and account holders.

Remember: even without a Section 512(a) safe harbor, network operators have significant protections against liability for infringement that they themselves did not commit. Our creation of this policy is intended to provide a convenient way to obtain additional protection, but we do not intend to suggest such protections are needed in most cases.

Open Wireless and Six Strikes

In early 2013, ISPs teamed up with the content industry to roll out a copyright surveillance machine known as the Copyright Alert System—or "Six Strikes"—a system of escalated penalties against users for alleged copyright infringements. Six Strikes does not recognize the benefits of open wireless; indeed, it is designed to discourage open networks. For example, the website for the system urges users to password-protect their networks, and the process for identifying allegedly infringing activity will inevitable result in notices targeting open wireless network operators who have done nothing unlawful. For more information, check out our Copyright Alert System FAQ.

If you receive a notice, or “alert,” alleging that your network was used to infringe copyright, and you believe you have been targeted erroneously, you may be able to dispute the notice.

The review process is administered by the American Arbitration Association. To challenge a notice, you must apply no more than 14 days after your ISP offers you an independent review. The challenge will initially cost you $35. If you successfully challenge at least half of the notices you have received by then, your ISP will clear the record of the notices from your account, your connection will not be temporarily throttled or suspended, and you will receive a $35 refund.

Your challenge is limited to the following defenses:

  • Your account was incorrectly identified as the source of the file in question
  • The file was shared by an unauthorized user of your account, whose use you were not aware of and could not have prevented (e.g., you have an open wireless connection)
  • You had permission from the copyright owner to share the file
  • The file was mislabeled or misidentified and did not “consist primarily” of the alleged copyright work at issue, but rather contained other, non-infringing material
  • The work was published before 1923
  • Your peer-to-peer reproduction and distribution of the file was fair use under U.S. copyright law

You will not be allowed to raise any other defense. And if your defense is that you run an open wireless network, you can only raise it once. After that, the system assumes you will lock your system down.

The CAS’s private system of adjudication has no appeal process—the arbitrator’s decision is final.

What if I Get a DMCA Notice?

There is the possibility that, over the course of running an open wireless network, you may receive a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice forwarded from your ISP for action over your network that may infringe copyright. The first thing to note is that you are not being accused of copyright infringement. Instead, the notice should allege that someone else is using your network to infringe copyright.

There are several ways of responding to a DMCA notice of this kind. First, you can ignore the notice. Second, if you have a repeat infringer policy and you have the ability to ban the MAC address or user associated with that activity from your network—and you believe such a ban is appropriate—you can do so. Third, if you don’t have a repeat infringer policy, the user in question hasn’t violated such a policy, and/or you aren’t capable of terminating the user (because, for example, you don’t have a record of the MAC address associated with the infringing activities), you can simply explain the issue to your ISP. However, please be aware that if your network violates your subscriber agreement, the service provider may not be as understanding.

Copyright Trolls

Open wireless providers may face another problem, however, in the form of copyright trolls. These companies try to use the threat of having to defend a copyright infringement suit and damages to extract settlements from people using file sharing networks. Copyright trolls often use flimsy evidence; they rely on the fact that the cost of fighting a lawsuit against them would normally be higher than the cost of just paying them a few thousand dollars to settle.

If you run an open wireless network, there is a small risk that you could be targeted by a copyright troll because of the actions of your guest users. If that happens, you could plan to hire a lawyer and fight the troll, which is righteous, but might be time consuming and expensive. EFF is occasionally able to represent wireless operators targeted by copyright trolls for free. (We have had some notable success.) Many people choose the less costly (but still costly) route of settling.

Open Wireless and police mistargeting

There have been a handful of media stories about police raiding houses during the investigation of various crimes, to eventually discover that the traffic had originated from a neighbor via a wireless network. Over the past few years, the press has reported only a few cases of misidentification through open wireless in the United States.

A couple of things that can be done that may reduce this risk: give your network a name that makes it clear that it's open ("openwireless.org"), and if you like, put a sticker up by your front door to the same effect. If you're willing to pay a bit more, get a privacy-friendly VPN account and a router that supports VPN tunneling.

Note to police departments: Some police departments have made public statements against open wireless networks, presumably because they never want to accidentally raid the homes of innocent parties. We do not believe that more passwords would fix the problem of mistargeted police investigations; even if nobody ran an open wireless network, it would be unsafe to categorically assume that an IP address maps to the subscriber's identity. Most password-protected networks are easily breakable, and criminals can use others' locked networks to cover their tracks if they wish to. Before launching a major raid based on IP address evidence, a better answer than reducing open wireless is for police officers to be trained to check for open networks as well as anonymizing technologies such as proxies and Tor exit relays.

If law enforcement comes knocking, what are my rights?

If you are in the United States, the Constitution guarantees you certain rights when the government comes to your door. Even if you feel like you have nothing to hide, we suggest you do not consent to a search and politely refuse to answer questions before you consult with a lawyer. EFF can help you find an attorney.

For more information, EFF has created a Know Your Rights guide and a Surveillance Self-Defense guide to help you understand your options if the police are trying to search your electronic devices.