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A Cup of Sugar is One Thing ...

A colleague of mine, we'll call her Amy, approached me with a technical question.

I thought it was going to be something about the use of subjunctive or perhaps the third conditional, but the technology was computers, not ESL.

It seems her neighbor popped over during the weekend and asked if her daughter could use Amy's Internet. Amy, while very saavy on matters regarding films, grammar, and nail varnish (always the most fantastic colours), isn't so clever (by her own admission) about the tech side of things.

'Did she want to come over and use your computers?' I asked.

'No, apparently she wants to use my wi-fi. That seems like a cheeky thing to ask. Should I feel guilty by saying no?'

'That depends,' I said. 'Are they nice neighbors?'

'They're horrible. They came over one day with a half a sheet of A4 scribbled in the tiniest handwriting documenting what time our pipes made noise in the morning. They're always complaining about the stupidest things.'

'And yet they want to piggy back off your broadband account?'

'So it seems. Is that what people do?'

I said the rule guideline in most cities was if people weren't clever enough to password protect their wi-fi, then there was no reason not to use it.

'You have a security code on your wi-fi, right?'

She shrugged.

I told her if said neighbor decided to start downloading untoward things (not that anything untoward happens in Amy's Dulwich neighborhood) they could be traced back to her IP address (her eyes glazed over and I waved the tech speak away) and she could be responsible. Not to mention, the more computers using the wi-fi, the slower her service might be.

'So I'm not a bad person if I say no?'

I told her she should say yes, but then hand them a very long extenstion cord, have them plug it into one of their mains, stretch it from their house to hers and then just 'borrow' their electricity.

Amy has a computer guy, Ted, and is going to ring him this afternoon to make sure he's got a password on their system.

I'm pretty sure the neighbors are going to have to buck up and pay for their own broadband account.

What do you think? Should neighbors pitch in and socialize their broadband? Should there be an Internet cooperative?