Cross-posted from the OpenITP blog.
Congratulations to the Open Wireless Movement on their launch!
The OWM is an initiative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and when we saw what they were trying to do, we gladly provided some early financial support. We're happy to be standing with a distinguished list of partners that includes the Open Technology Institute, the Internet Archive, and Free Press among others — see the OWM home page for the complete list.
Why does the Open Wireless Movement matter for privacy and freedom of communication on the Internet?
The first place any repressive regime turns to enforce Net censorship is the Internet service providers. ISPs are a central point of control: if you can get the ISP to reveal the subscriber's name and activities to authorities, then the subscriber's safe route to the Net is tainted at its source. A strong open wireless movement changes that dynamic. When people share Net access, they dilute risk. It's like taking out a community-wide insurance policy against censorship and surveillance: "I'll let you surf on my network if you let me surf on yours, and those watching will have a harder time knowing which of us is looking at what." When that deal is extended to anonymous strangers, it becomes more difficult to track individuals and target them for their activities. Privacy, anonymity, and security on the Internet are not just about encryption and arcane technical measures, they're also about decentralization of control and strengthening social protocols — giving people tools to help each other directly, without relying on a central, and thus potentially corruptible, intermediary.
The first question people always ask about the Open Wireless Movement is: "Won't freeloaders swamp my connection by using it to stream video?" The answer is "Not in practice, and besides, you can guarantee they won't by setting your wireless router to offer only as much bandwidth to strangers as you're comfortable with". The OWM site answers this and many other questions, and explains all the reasons why running an open wireless network is a good idea. Check it out.