Need a Connection? Sorry, This Is MyFi

122 Comments

cimg1496Readers, I need your thoughts on an etiquette issue associated with technology. Yesterday morning I was at the San Francisco airport finishing up a story while waiting for a flight. Inspired by my colleague James over at jkOnTheRun, I had my laptop and my Verizon (s vz) MiFi out on the table. The MiFi is a handy little device that uses Verizon’s 3G network to provide a Wi-Fi signal for up to five devices to access the web. Using it, I can download 5GB on my laptop, iPod Touch or any other WiFi-enabled device, for $60 a month.

A fellow traveler spied the device, knew what it was (only in San Francisco), and asked if he could piggyback on my connection to do some work. I politely said no, then packed up my stuff to change locations so he would think I had to leave and not that I was a complete jerk (James over at jkOTR would also say no). But was I? I was hesitant to share my connection with a total stranger because of the potential security risks, and because I had no idea how much of my 5GB he would use. I wondered if he was the type of person who wanders over to you in a Starbucks (s sbux) asking to borrow your laptop so he can check his email. But in a similar situation, readers, would you share? Is it rude to ask?

122 Comments

helpingout09

Yeah, I think you were in the right here. I think a warning/request that nothing illegal is done on your connection, plus maybe a $5 donation would have made everyone happy, though. If possible, (maybe) you could have sat next to him to make sure there was nothing going on that you disapproved of.

The MiFi and it’s service plans are fairly expensive, though. And considering the fellow travel knew what the MiFi was, he was probably aware of its expense as well.

For anyone looking to get a MiFi, check out http://buymifi.com for the latest deals on the MiFi 2200 or MiFi 2352. There are also deals posted for MiFi related accessories.

PrometheeFeu

You were clearly within your right. Whether you were right to do it or not is entirely subjective. But it is true that you would be taking a small risk that they would do something illegal AND that you would be caught. It’s not unreasonable to be careful. On the other hand, it doesn’t take a liberal pinko to realize that if we trust each other, social interactions will be much smoother which is good for life in general, but also economic cooperation.

I however would argue that there is nothing rude in asking someone else if you can use their Internet connection. I go down the street asking my neighbors asking for an egg or a cup of sugar when I run out and need it. Nothing wrong with recognizing the fact that we are humans and that we depend on each other and can help each other out.

To conclude, I think I would have asked them what they needed it for and to please not do anything illegal on my connection before allowing them. Most people can actually be trusted as long as you bother to ask.

Anonymous

Because the MiFi only connects to your computer/other device via WiFi. Look at the name for Heaven’s sake.

Decline

How and since when is it ever rude to ask? If you think it was rude for the person to have just asked then F U. I would rather know the person who asks, then the person who thinks it is rude to ask.
And you could have very easily asked them back what they needed to look up, gauged their answer and decided to say yes or no. It wasn’t rude to say no…though the packing up and leaving bit is slightly off putting. I honestly feel like I have very little right to lock down the air waves around me and would have let them. Heck, my wifi is even called “open and free.” and the chance that a person asking is actually going to use it for some illegal activity is pretty slim….and your uncle is more likely a pedophile than some stranger asking for your myfi in need of a porn fix.
oh well….most of these comments just show what is wrong with everyone, you are paranoid jerks or just jerks.

Phil

Wow, I can’t believe the attitudes on this page. I completely disagree with the author and most of the comments. Unless I was running short on my 5Gigs per month, I certainly would share. I happen to have an EVDO card myself and use it when traveling, but I certainly know what it is like to be on the road and be stuck needing to check email. I think many of the comments on this page are rude/selfish, and unless I had a good reason I think it was rude to refuse. As for concerns about what he was doing, I would just ask him not to download music or movies.

Jason

The security risks aren’t the issue. The issue is that you didn’t feel comfortable, and that’s totally okay. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, then don’t. But I would say as much, “I’m sorry I just don’t feel comfortable sharing my connection.” Nothing jerky about that.

It’s certainly not rude for someone in need to ask for help. What if the guy was in danger of losing his job if he didn’t send something off ASAP? It doesn’t make you suddenly responsible. I mean it’s not your fault he couldn’t fix it himself. However,maybe you are able to help someone, and maybe you do care, and even then there’s still the comfort issue.

However, next time, you might just try asking back:

Well, maybe, what do you need it for? or how long will you be on? or why do you need it so badly? I mean if the guy just wants to email his wife to ask what’s for dinner, then it’d be a lot easier for me to say, “You know, I’d rather not, and besides nothing like coming home to good surprise, right? Have a nice flight. : ) “

Rob

Your gut reaction was right. You got up and walked away because you didn’t want him to think that you are a complete jerk. In fact, you are a jerk. Maybe not a complete jerk, but refusing to share is a jerk thing to do.

You’re worried about your 5GB cap? All you have to do is mention your concern, and any reasonable person would keep his session brief and limit his online video streaming. By assuming that he was going to overstay his welcome, you are the one making the world the tiniest bit less friendly.

Ashutosh

Well, for me it depends. It’s very subjective for me to share my JoikuSpot Premium (It an app that turns your phone’s internet into wi fi and multiple devices can connect, the advantage is, it turns your phone into a wi fi so no need to carry an extra device). If I know the person, I would not mind. If I don’t know the person then it depends, if his need seems genuine, I would not mind sharing. Of course, it’s in my hands to turn the app anytime off and move on. So that’s fine. The only thing is, security. If he does something nasty like sending a threat letter to the President of US (;)), then I would be crucified and not him.
It’s subjective and frankly speaking, did not even need a debate.

Ike

I think it was rude of the person to ask to use your equipment, if he needs to check his email that badly then he should invest and get his own service. Also (and I’ve learned this the hard way) letting someone connect through your network can set yourself up to get a virus, and files copied. People need to be more self-reliant and take care of themselves, not depend on others to “lend” them their service.

Chuck

Okay, I guess it really depends on where you live, how organized you are, whether it’s an emergency (wireless/network access or cellphone or even a pen/pencil in a line/que in a store/gov related office), but my take is “Look, you knew you were going to be coming to this place at this time. You know how to use the object/service you’re now asking me to share with you. Your asking me, because it’s now convient for you, and probably inconvient for me to do so since I planned ahead and prepared, is rather offensive. Please think about this, plan ahead next time (because we both know you’re going to do this again if you think you can get away with it) and learn that you have to be responsible for your life. Now shoo. Go away. Any guilt you think I should feel is a reflection of how immature you are.”
Really.
Think about this.
Why should this even be coming up???

TateJ

I’m sorry, but you did good. I am one of those people who shared my wifi with a neighbor and then got burned. The neighbor was consantly downloading movies and porn off of pirate bay. When I would try to use the internet connection I was paying for, it was slow and unreliable.

Sorry, i guess I’m just selfish.

Scott L

I would have shared if I had the time. The device is capable, wi-fi is invisible and “unlimited.” It costs me nothing I wouldn’t have paid for already, the guy sounded friendly, and I would’ve come out the hero. What’s wrong with that? I’d call it my good deed for the day and wouldn’t look back.

Although, it probably would’ve taken me one or two times saying “no” to learn my lesson.

Lisa

why not keep the mifi in your purse or laptop bag? it doesn’t need to be on display for it to work and you can keep your connection a bit more of a secret. people will just assume you’re working offline.

vinnie mirchandani

You do not need to feel guilty for saying no.

My favorite “guilt” story goes back to another airport far far away many moon ago

On a non-stop flight from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia to New York in the mid-80s. I had booked weeks in advance a bulkhead seat (in economy) with extra leg space for that 14 hour non-stop. As we all settled into our seats the guy behind me tapped my shoulder and said he had just had surgery – could I swap with him? He was in middle seat, no less. I politely said no, and felt like a heel for the next hour.

As we got to cruising altitude, I felt better. Why? Because the SOB got up and walked around with no obvious discomfort. I would have kicked his seat every time he nodded off if I had swapped and then discovered I had been had :)

Habib Ullah Khan

Ah how far we have come from Whitman’s vision:

“Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?”

Rob

I agree that if he knew what it was, he also knew there is a cap on it, and shouldn’t have asked. Here’s a better neighbor analogy. They just moved in, and would like to run a telephone line from your box to use for long distance calls.

Rasheed

Next time say yes “You can share for $50, remember to issue a tax receipt!

Aswath Rao

So the stranger downloads songs and then RIAA goes after you, how will you prove your innocence? Will RIAA agree that you are?

randulo

You did right, it was wrong for a stranger to put you in that position, except in an emergency. Neighbors, on the other hand are not strangers, and mine saved my life when our phone was cut off. I asked him if we could use their wifi and he gave me the long secure key on my thumbdrive. But I’d do the same for him, obviously.

Security and cost are both a concern. I wouldn’t ask to use someone’s cellphone, either except under some extenuating circumstances of urgency.

heath

it would really come down to that 5gb cap.. it gets really expensive really fast after that.

Russ

I’m also in San Francisco and own a MiFi 2200. It recently replaced my Novatel USB727 because I often carry more than a single computing device that may benefit from accessing Verizon Wireless’ EV-DO network – including my iPhone.

I pay $60/mo for that convenience.

My answer to your question is: I’ll decline!

If the guy you ran into at SFO wants such convenience, I suggest that he take out his wallet and get in touch with Verizon Wireless.

Perhaps that’s why the device was named MiFi and not FreeloaderFi.

Gunnar Lindberg Ã…rneby

It’s really saddening to read about how afraid of each other you americans are. No wonder guns are more important than healthcare in the US.

SaketS

Agree with Gunnar. Sad to see that people are so dead against sharing. Weren’t most of us taught that it is good to share what we have with others who need it, at least unless it harms us in some way. It seems that both security risk and risk of exceeding the bandwidth cap were both low in this scenario.

Is the world getting devoid of all goodness? Are we so stingy that we can share a few megabytes of download capacity? What’s the point of advancement when all we care about are virtual facebook friends, but choose to ignore real people around us.

JW

SaketS
While I do share food or money if I see someone in need I don’t think internet access has become a basic necessity.

The government and police don’t care about the mystery person who used your bandwidth at the airport, they care about prosecuting someone, and if it comes back to you I hope you have a good lawyer, a lot of money, and an understanding boss.

Damond Horner

Health Care is important, that’s why anyone with a brain is trying to stop it from being ruined.

Q dub

“Wow, that smells great, mind if I get a sip of your frap too?”

Paul Kapustka

Maybe there is a new business model embedded in this question… the roaming day-use hotspot! Just say you charge $5, or a frappucino or something per connection… maybe the MiFi could have an extra light — say blue — that advertises that you are open for business…

Matthew Rigdon

The law says the accomplice is as guilty as the perpetrator of a crime. I’m hesitant to let a neighbor use my Wifi because I don’t want to end up being the target of a search warrant because he (or someone he let on his computer or gave the Wifi password out to) was downloading child porn or doing something else illegal on my connection.

The other issue, besides the data cap, is seeing your connection wiped out because someone borrows your MyFi to upload videos to YouTube. Any time I start a data upload on my computer at home, all of my other internet access slows to a crawl because of the asymmetric nature of my DSL connection.

Plus, if you’re that desperate to get on the internet, then fork over the $50 a month. If you’re not that desperate, then sit quietly at the airport and read your Twilight novel. If your work (or play) isn’t important enough for you to part with money, it’s obviously not very important.

Joshua Davis

I wouldn’t share my MiFi if asked, who knows what someone is downloading (porn, terrorism, p2p). However I do share my WiFi with the neighbors because I know and trust them. Considering the amount of trouble an Internet connection in the wrong hands can cause, this would be like a stranger asking to borrow your car.

jdk

Terrorism? Really?

All these people worried about security or other negative consequences and yet nearly every coffee shop in town has open wifi that most people use AND offer without a second thought.

While there’s no obligation to share and without going over the cap, I would consider it rude to refuse to share a resource that’s otherwise going to partly to waste (<100%?).

Joshua Davis

Yes but coffee shops are treated as ISPs when it comes to abuses of an Internet connections. Average Joes are considered co-conspirators or accomplices.

andrew

You have every right to do what you felt was best for you and made you most comfortable. Not your job to look out for him, and you should not feel bad at all for not having done so.

That said, I personally would have shared the connection… I just think that as a whole we have become to unwilling to help someone, even when they ask for it. I would have done it because it would have made me feel good to help out. The risk reward for me would have tilted in favor of why not.

Kevin Walsh

I’m with Stacy on this one. But you need to do a poll; I’m not sure I want to read all of these comments.

Josh

Mueller has it exactly right — as long as he asked politely, I see nothing wrong with his asking, nor with your polite refusal.

For those who are suggesting keeping the MiFi in a bag or pocket, that does make sense most of the time. But MiFis are prone to overheating, and I find (imagine?) that mine works a more reliably if I take it out of my bag periodically while using it.

Joshua Davis

I keep mine in my backpack’s iPod compartment and have never had any issue with it overheating or low performance.

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