Won’t You Be My Wireless Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Wireless Neighbor?

By Helen Rubinstein

I contend this is largely a Definition/Categorical argument. As you read it, decide for yourself 1) what it defines and 2) to what degree you believe this is in fact a Definition argument. 25%? 50%? More or less? Leave your analysis as a Reply below.

FOR a long time, I relied on my Brooklyn neighbors’ generosity—that is, their unsecured wireless networks—every time I connected to the Web.

So, to linksys of Park Slope, in 2005, for allowing me to do my first freelance work from home; to Netgear 1 and Netgear 2 of the same neighborhood, in 2006, for supporting my electronic application to several graduate schools; to DHoffma, from 2007 to 2008, for letting me pay my taxes online and stream new episodes of “Friday Night Lights” each evening for a whole winter; to belkin54g, Cooley and, above all, to the blessed Belkin_G-Plus_MIMO of Ditmas Park, from 2009 to 2010, for the ability to speedily reply to student e-mails, video-chat with my sister, keep abreast of the latest literary hoo-ha, “like” as many of my friends’ Facebook posts as I liked and learn all about lentil-sprouting or Prometheus whenever the mood struck: Thank you. And may you rest in peace.

A few months ago, the Belkin_G-Plus_MIMO network changed its name and gained a padlock icon in my computer’s list of available connections. Then—crickets. The era of unintentional, unasked-for or simply unacknowledged Internet sharing, it seemed, had come to an end.

Suddenly disconnected, I realized how lucky I’d been all those years, having that tremendous body of information and awesome communication technology at my fingertips, all basically free. It may have been unfair, but I don’t believe I was stealing: the owners’ leaving their networks password-free was essentially a gift, an ethereal gesture of kindness. Sometimes I’d imagine my anonymous benefactors, those people behind Netgear 1 or belkin54g, thinking, “Well, I have Internet to spare.”

And, really, who doesn’t? Home wireless networks can usually support five or more computers, yet there are only about 1.4 computers per American household.

For a few blindered weeks, I debated whether or not to finally “buy” the Internet. The whole system, though, seemed wasteful: paying a company to come wire my apartment, then paying a monthly fee so that I could maintain my own private territory within the cloud of 20 or so wireless networks that were already humming around my apartment. It would be all the more wasteful given the likelihood that, just as cellphones made landlines optional, smartphones and tablets will soon replace the need for home networks at all.

Why couldn’t I instead shell out a nominal fee—to someone, anyone—to partake of the riches that were all around me in abundance?

Paying for Internet access, after all, isn’t like paying for cable TV, where cable providers pay cable networks in turn. My establishing a new network instead of sharing with neighbors does nothing to benefit the Web sites whose content benefits me and whose value to advertisers is based on views and visits.

Nor is it like paying for phone service, where the physical object that makes and receives calls is inseparable from your unique number. My e-mail address is utterly portable: it’s not bound to an I.P. address or one computer—and, like the vast majority of the Internet’s services and information, it’s free.

Which is part of why getting online free felt so natural. During my Internet-less weeks, in desperate moments, I checked e-mail on my Kindle’s wireless connection, which is complimentary (to encourage e-book purchases). But that was a painfully slow experience akin to surfing the Web on an Etch a Sketch.

In an ideal world, the Internet would be universally available to anyone able to receive it. Promisingly, the Federal Communications Commission in September announced that it would open up unused analog airwaves for high-speed public wireless use, which could lead to gratis hotspots spreading across cities and through many rural areas.

But an Internet as freely obtainable as broadcast TV hasn’t yet arrived. And so I recently found myself watching as a technician strung a wire from a tall pole in the backyard to my third-floor apartment so I could have my own connection (wired, to ease myself into the world of paid Internet). It was a process that took nearly three hours, and meant the addition of another long cable to the fistful already circling the building.

When he finished, I had to ask: “Shouldn’t this all be wireless? Wouldn’t that be much easier?”

“Too much interference,” he said. “Too many networks affect the signal.” I thought again about all the people close by with all their overlapping networks.

Perhaps the solution is a simple, old-fashioned gesture. Just knock on a neighbor’s door, and ask if she might be able to spare some wireless.

Helen Rubinstein teaches writing at Brooklyn College.

About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels. www.davidbdale.wordpress.com
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39 Responses to Won’t You Be My Wireless Neighbor?

  1. mossmacabre says:

    I think she is arguing that she believes the definition of a wireless internet connection should be different. She suggests a group approach, saying that she would rather ask her neighbor if she could pay them for the password to their internet connection rather than pay an internet service provider on a monthly basis.


  2. toastedflatbread22 says:

    The definition/categorical claim being made is that internet is an open, sharable thing that should be made more widely available to all who need it.


  3. cfalover says:

    I believe she is arguing about the fact that sharing internet between multiple neighbors makes more sense financially than every person buying their own internet plan. Since multiple people can use the same network anyway, it makes sense to use one or two as a group.
    I think that this argument is 25% definition argument.


  4. minutemen14 says:

    Rubinstein explains the unique dilemma of wifi and the blurred lines of ownership. It isn’t s something quite tangible except digitally and it isn’t something concrete that can be taken elsewhere. She says that something she almost felt was free to her, was shown to be very valuable when she wasn’t able to use it. It seemed very trivial, but proved to be extremely important and useful to her daily life. It is funny to see your prospective change after having something taken away from you. It definitely makes you appreciate what you have “never know a good thing until it’s gone.”


  5. ilovedunkinoverstarbucks says:

    She is arguing that wireless internet should be two things one being completely wireless as there should not be too many internet wires attached to her building and two that it should be available to all that need it like being free or at least paying a small price to a neighbor to use their wifi since she used it that way for so many years.


  6. lokiofasgard24 says:

    The writer is trying to define the process of obtaining internet and why everyone should share theirs with the overlapping spaces. I would say this is 75% definition argument because it contains a lot of argument and a little bit of definition.


  7. littlecow24 says:

    I believe this defines how the internet has evolved over the years, and how it has spread works today. She is arguing how simple the internet used to be, and now that society has evolved, so must the internet, creating a massive bundle of wires. I think this is about 80% a definition argument.


  8. Lunaduna says:

    1) Defines what wired internet means to the author (and why it should be wireless)
    2) I believe that the passage above is a little less than 50% of a definition essay. (About 40%)
    – The essay by Helen Rubinstein, explains her belief in what the internet should be like, and how it works. Helen goes on to explain that having wireless internet would be much easier, but there are complications, resulting in too much interference with other people.
    – The conclusion to her essay states that maybe, the best solution would be knocking on your neighbor’s door.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. zzbrd2822 says:

    This categorical/definition argument defines wireless internet and how it should be more freely attainable. The author claims that sharing internet connections with others is more efficient and financially beneficial than buying and installing your own internet. I think this argument is around 25% definition arguement.


  10. cocochanel715 says:

    This definition analysis defines that there is countless networks of internet around the writers apartment that do not have a passcode on them, so to her advantage she uses her neighbors internet instead of getting her own. This analysis is 50% because there is a lot of writing about why she uses other peoples internet instead of buying her own.


  11. gingerbreadman27 says:

    The claim being made is that she believes that internet should be accessible to everyone but instead of everyone having their own but should have group networks to save on the cost of wireless access.


  12. kingofcamp says:

    After reading Rubinstein’s essay, “Won’t You Be My Wireless Neighbor?,” I have come to the conclusion that this essay is a definition essay. I argue that this essay is a definition essay because the author is defining the path she took to use “free internet.” Throughout her essay, Rubinstein defines what it meant to have free internet- including what she could use and access on someone else’s internet. In terms of percentage, I would conclude that this essay is 60% a definition essay.


  13. toastedflatbread22 says:

    It is also about 80% definition argument.


  14. zipemup1 says:

    Throughout the text, she asserts that the internet should be shared by various neighbors. She explains how it would make more sense financially, especially since more people are usually on the wifi anyway.


  15. spaghettitacosforthesoul says:

    It’s hard to find where the definition argument is within the text because as I interpret the article as a whole it seems more like an evaluative argument because “Internet should be free”. But it seems like the argument she’s trying to make in relation to a definition argument is it would be better off if the internet were free, or it makes more sense to have free internet. And when looking at it from the perspective of it it’s better to have free internet than the entire text changes from what it should be to what it isn’t. I think I understand where the definition argument lays within the text but it’s hard to exactly pinpoint it when my first interpretation was evulative.


  16. levixvice says:

    This definition arguments has some information on the wireless networks and modem used to have internet, but more of the sentences have some personal background on the author’s relationship with the network stealing from others, although the neighbor’s wireless network was somewhat free to use. But it’s definitions is keeping the network secured from other people because its owned property.


  17. ziggy026 says:

    The claim this author is making is that the internet connection should be shared with others since that is what it is made for if the internet is not free. The main goal is for wireless internet connections to be free, but if they can’t be they should be shared. She believes that this would be more preferable from a financial perspective, and everyone is able to benefit from it.


  18. nugget114 says:

    Rubinstein is making the argument that it would make more sense financially for one person and they’re neighbors to share internet accounts because the internet is open. She says that she would rather pay her neighbor for their internet password and to use their servers than have her own internet plan. Since internet and wifi can be shared, she believes it would make more sense to do this as a group rather than individually. It definitely has definition argument to it because Rubinstein defines what it means to have “free internet” and how she doesn’t think any of it should be considered stealing when it should be free anyway.


    • davidbdale says:

      I don’t disagree with anything you say, nugget, but it all sounds like a justification she wrote after recognizing she’d been stealing internet service for years from neighbors who might not have been too happy to learn that she’d been poaching their bandwidth. Reaction?


  19. imaspookyghost says:

    She believes its more cost efficient and resource efficient for a neighbor to share the internet they are paying for. If everyone in this “network” pays the person paying for the internet enough to make it a neutral gain in money then everyone gets internet for a lower cost. And since the internet is still just as powerful for up to 5 computers it wouldn’t affect the speed. This is a 90% a definition argument, and 10% an argument of more effective ways of distributing online connection. In general it defines how the versatility in how internet can be used and distributed, and it being argued about how inefficient the system currently is.


    • davidbdale says:

      So the Definition, if there is one (and at 90% it’s clear you believe there is one) would be a definition of either the “way the internet is distributed now” or a “better, more efficient cost-sharing arrangement” for buying internet service from a local broker or shared bandwidth bundle?


  20. chickennugget444 says:

    This definition argument is defining internet as something that should be shared. I would say it’s about 50% a definition argument because she discusses some other things like using her neighbors wifi.


  21. frogs02 says:

    The argument is that if you pay for the internet then others who do not pay for the internet should not be able to attach to the internet for free. However, she questions that “Shouldn’t this all be wireless? Wouldn’t that be much easier?” She believes that everyone can benefit more from free internet and a wireless connection. The argument would be how the internet is given to people.


  22. comatosefox says:

    It is technically stealing, but the owner never seemed to notice the usage go up compared to the years before they joined. It’s a weird scenario because most networks would either already come with a password you could change you have you create one in the first few steps of setting it up. So that no one could use it without permission. To anyone that look at local wifi, it could look like the building manager had bought wifi for the building and just failed to mention. If this was an occasional event, it would be alright, but using it for years without the owner knowing anything is a bit wrong. They not only have been supporting themselves as well as anyone they live with, but a stranger. We have no knowledge if they had to upgrade their service due to the additional person or not.


  23. krackintheneck says:

    I think the author is defining the meaning of wireless networks. Arguing the point that if the wireless network is available, why not use it? On the other hand she does not know if her neighbors purposely made a secure network so there is not any other foreign device connected to their internet.


  24. sunshinegirl457 says:

    Maybe I’m not completely sure what a definition argument it because as I’m reading other replies everyone is saying low numbers like around 20-30%. However, I think this is 100% a definition argument because the author, Helen Rubinstein, is clearly stating the problem she faced, her opinions on it, and what possible solution arose from it.


  25. Lily4Pres says:

    Rubinstein seems to making an argument for the free use of internet. She defines what internet is and what it has given her. She also goes over what she has gained through stealing her neighbor’s wireless internet for the past several years. Then, whilst trying to make an argument for free internet, she herself caved in to the use of private internet. It seems to be an essay that is written in promotion of free internet, but I believe it is written in defense to her leeching of private internet. The essay certainly has a definition portion to it, but most of the essay seems to be justification of the way she abused her opportunity of free internet.


  26. tyblicky2001 says:

    Its 80% a definition argument because they are arguing about the financial efficiency of wired internet and how effective the free wired internet could be towards the next person.


  27. strawberryfields4 says:

    After reading Rubinstein’s essay, I have gathered that her primary argument is whether it is ethical or not to “borrow” internet from her neighbors. Much of the essay is spent almost justifying why there was no harm caused in the process of borrowing this service from her neighbors without technically asking permission. However, Rubinstein also highlights the strange nature of physically installing the wires that access the internet. I would claim that this essay is only about 50% a definition argument. Many of the claims that are made seem to be a discussion of morals, rather than defining terms and placing things into various categories.


  28. calamariii says:

    The definitional argument in this article is what is wireless internet and how wireless connections can be unknowingly be shared. Most of the article is an evaluative claim on how this sharing of internet access works and how it often seems somewhat unnecessary to have so many internet connections in the same area when not everyone needs all of theirs, especially if multiple cause interference.


  29. chickendinner says:

    I’d say this article is half definitional argument, establishing wi-fi in contrast to wired internet and other forms of communication. The other half is making the argument that wi-fi should be treated more like a public good.


  30. sinatraman17 says:

    This argument straddles the line of being definition/categorical. She spends much of her time exploring whether or not her actions of “stealing” internet were ethically justified, rather than making definitive, supported claims regarding the matter. I’d say roughly 50% is definition/categorical.


    • davidbdale says:

      That sounds wise, Sinatraman.
      An argument about whether the author is a thief or not would by nature be at least 50% ethical, maybe 100% ethical in the last analysis. She did the deed. We don’t argue that. She took what was not hers. It’s complicated that a definition argument depends on whether what she took was something the owner would have freely given if asked. If you can tell me whether that question is definitional or ethical, you should guest lecture the next class. I think we’re both qualified to acknowledge that the categories of argument are blurry at best and share elements and principles. Good on you for pointing out the ambiguity. 🙂


  31. rowanstudent6 says:

    I believe that this essay is 75% argumentative and is summed up in the final sentence of the piece in which the author asks why “wireless internet” is not wireless. The author is redefining what wireless internet should be as well as arguing that it should be free or at the very least shared in a community as much of the wireless capabilities are wasted.


    • davidbdale says:

      You don’t mention it, the but speculation that the internet could be “as readily available as broadcast TV” seems to be Definitional by way of Analogy, right? A “wireless internet” shouldn’t have to depend on my wiring my home any more than my phone has to be wired to access a satellite. Right? The “community sharing” approach is a Proposal argument, I think, and one that has been adopted by countless businesses that buy the service and make free wifi available to anyone nearby.


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