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Be a Good Neighbor: Share Your Wi-Fi

With a few steps, you can help someone in need access your connection

Owen Williams
OneZero
Published in
4 min readMay 7, 2020

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A photo of a woman wearing a mask and gloves on her phone waiting for a train.
A woman wearing protective mask and gloves uses a mobile phone while waiting for a train at M1 underground line Cadorna station on May 04, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Photo: Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

Where I live in Toronto, Canada, I enjoy a speedy 1.5 Gbps fiber connection — about 24 times the national average of 62 Mbps. But things look much different in a neighboring community just a few blocks away, where friends pay steep prices for speeds that top out at just 40 Mbps. This felt unfair before the pandemic, but the coronavirus has underscored the problem of unequal internet access.

Take, for example, a recent story in the New York Times examining how parking lots that can catch Wi-Fi signals have become a digital lifeline: “The family takes turns driving down to Brookton’s Market, a small country store with a gravel driveway, to park and connect to its free internet. Mr. Derry’s daughter, Ellie, a freshman at Colorado College, goes almost daily for her Zoom class sessions and to download big files that she can take home and work on offline.”

There’s something we can all do about these inequalities: open up our Wi-Fi to our communities to use for free by creating guest networks for anyone to access, similar to what you’d find at a local coffee shop. It’s an opportunity to be a good neighbor without leaving your home.

A couple of caveats: You’ll probably only want to do this if you have an unlimited data plan, and you should recognize that there may be security risks depending on how you set up your network. Sharing your connection without an unlimited plan could lead to overage fees. And using an open network could expose your data to bad actors. Setting up a separate guest network should mitigate the risk to you personally, and putting a password on that network will protect users, too, as it will ensure their connections are encrypted. Almost every modern router supports this functionality, but it needs to be manually set up.

How to set up a password-protected network for guests

Because every internet provider bundles different modems with its service, it’s difficult to provide specific instructions, but you can start by looking for a model number on the side of the device you own. Then, do an online search like “Home Hub 3000 Guest…

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Owen Williams
OneZero

Fascinated by how code and design is shaping the world. I write about the why behind tech news. Design Manager in Tech. https://twitter.com/ow