"It's the strangest thing — I can't connect to the wireless anymore. I can still use the Microsoft but not the email."

The Microsoft was a key phrase that let Jay L. know that the woman on the line wasn't exactly what you'd call a power user. "I'll be happy to help. First, can you tell me what router you're connecting to?



"I'm not having a problem with anything other than the wireless."

"Yes, I'm sorry," Jay began. She was being perfectly polite, which is more than he could say for most customers with internet issues, so he was careful to avoid "talking down" to her. "Does the computer say anything, or is it just not working when you try to use the internet?"

"It's asking me for a password. It's never asked for a password before!"

Jay walked her through some troubleshooting steps and learned that it was asking for a WEP key, though the network name was the same. She'd changed ISPs almost two months ago, but didn't have any problems for the first month and a half. Perhaps she had a neighbor with the same SSID on the same channel? If you've ever lived in a crowded apartment building you've seen your share of default SSIDs: linksys, wireless, wlan, 2wire... Or, if you've ever lived near Alex, "alexsprivatenetworkbiotch."

After learning that it was an ADSL line, Jay asked one of the stock questions. "What devices do you have plugged into your phone lines?"

"Phones," she said before giggling. "What else would I use a phone line for?"

"Wait, you don't have any little white box, a little gray box, or a little black box plugged into any of the jacks?"


"Nothing with a little antenna sticking out of it? Didn't your internet provider send you anything when you signed up with them?"

"Oh! Hang on!" Jay waited for a minute or two while he heard the sounds of cupboards opening, closets being searched, and drawers being rifled through. "OK, I found it! This says 'ADSL Router' on it. Is that what you mean?"

The woman wasn't able to find any manufacturer names on it, but was kind enough to give Jay all the information he needed. When he asked how many ports were on the back of it, she asked if she should remove the shrink wrap to see. "Yes, please."

It seems that contrary to popular methods of router use, she'd chosen not to connect any cables to hers.

With the router having been forgotten in a random closet, Jay realized that she'd been leeching her neighbor's connection all along, which made sense because the SSID (Norris) didn't match her last name. For over two years she'd been connected to someone else's unsecured network — and to top it all off, she hadn't used a single byte of the bandwidth she'd been paying for that whole time.

She'd be any ISP's dream customer.

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