Sort of hilarious over the top article about a fellow caught using someone else's Wi-Fi network furtively: The SUV driver apparently can afford a big old car but not a DSL or cable connection, which suggests nefarious activity. He was arrested under a law for unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony. Because the fellow was a) parked outside someone's home not just using a neighbor's leaky service, b) did it at 11 pm and c) was furtive, it's possible that he was engaged in untoward activity, but neither he nor prosecutors are talking.
The problem with an arrest like this, of course, is that what is the value of the theft? 15 cents? Who is the victim--the ISP or the subscriber? It's a lot of money spent to prosecute a problem that can be dealt with by turning on security.
If someone bothers to break through WEP for a home network, well, that crosses the line for sure. But this is just a strange case. It reminds me of the wrong-way driving, pantless Canadian, early morning Wi-Fi signal thief. Except the Canadian was alleged to be viewing child pornography, clearly an evil and illegal activity contravened by strong laws in almost every country in the world, where we don't yet know what the SUV fellow was up to.
And one point of view was missing: for ISPs that don't care if you share, this isn't a crime or a problem. The monolithic ISP view is always represented by companies that think sharing is stealing. Speakeasy Networks is apparently by my research the only ISP of any scale that encourages sharing. I asked the CEO about this the other day at their pre-WiMax launch, and he confirmed it: they don't monitor, they don't care. They're selling you a pipe and you can make lemonade for the neighbors with the signal that comes out.