Developments in Net-World

Broadband use jumps 34 percent, FCC says

Homes and businesses in all 50 states saw their numbers of high-speed Internet lines grow steadily last year, the Federal Communications Commission said Thursday in a semiannual report. Data collected from broadband providers showed the tally of high-speed subscribers climbed 34 percent during 2004, from 28.2 million to 37.9 million connections of 200kbps or higher.

Most categories of service, including cable and DSL, added lines at a slightly quicker pace during the second half of the year. Bigger concentrations of high-speed subscribers remained in ZIP codes bearing the densest populations and highest household incomes. California, New York and Texas led the pack, while the Dakotas and Wyoming trailed behind. The share of ZIP codes lacking service providers entirely has continued to drop, standing at less than 5 percent at the close of 2004.


RSS lures venture capital dollars

A group of investors has created a venture capital fund to raise $100 million to fund start-ups and others developing technology based on the RSS Web publishing format. RSS Investors, based in Cambridge, Mass., was formed last week to target the relatively new but fast-growing technology, with particular areas of interest being news aggregation, blogs, new classes of search engines and data aggregation in the financial and medical industries. RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, allows people to subscribe to news alerts, blog posts and other online information that is then automatically forwarded to their computers, phones and handheld devices. The technology, which is quickly becoming mainstream, enables anyone to become a global online publisher and is changing the way people get information off the Web, said Jim Moore, a founding partner at RSS Investors. The fund has already raised $20 million through an alliance with partners at Ritchie Capital Management, Tom Crowley and Steve Smith. In addition to Moore, other partners in RSS Investors are John Palfrey of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and venture capitalist Richard Fishman.


FAQ: Wi-Fi mooching and the law (so much for public airwaves)

The recent arrest of a Florida man on charges of unauthorized use of a wireless network could set legal ground rules for open Wi-Fi access. A man sitting in a Chevy Blazer in a residential neighborhood reportedly was poking around nearby wireless networks in violation of computer crime laws, according to local police. This appears to be the first arrest in which the sole offense was allegedly accessing a wireless network without prior authorization, and it's already being viewed as a probable test case. CNET interviewed legal scholars to ask what rules apply to Wi-Fi (also called 802.1x) hot spots.

Is it legal to use someone's Wi-Fi connection to browse the Web if they haven't put a password on it?
Nobody really knows. "It's a totally open question in the law," says Neal Katyal, a professor of criminal law at Georgetown University. "There are arguments on both sides."

That doesn't make much sense. Is there a specific law that regulates Wi-Fi access?
Sort of. The primary law is the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

You can read it for yourself, but the important part (check out paragraph (a)(2)) covers anyone who "intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access." Nobody knows exactly what that means in terms of wireless connections. The law was written in 1986 to punish computer hacking--and nobody contemplated 802.1x wireless links back then.