By Stephanie Foden, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Using a neighbor’s Wi-Fi is the gateway for 7.1 million Brazilians to surf the web, according to a survey released yesterday by the research institute, Data Popular.
Out of the 2,000 people surveyed in a hundred cities across the country, the sharing is more widespread among middle class netizens, or citizens of the Internet.
While ten percent of middle class users reported having access to the Internet via a neighbor’s Wi-Fi, only four percent of people in the upper and lower classes reported engaging in that practice.
According to Renato Meirelles, president of Data Popular, the practice of sharing Internet is most common in the middle class because these “emerging” users have closer ties with their neighbors. Brazil, coincidentally, is one of the countries with the highest number of Internet users in the world.
“We identified in our qualitative research social ties narrower in the middle class. In this specific case, a person is subscribes to broadband Internet, and splits the bill between two or three neighbors,” Meirelles told UOL Notícias.
Also, sharing increases the most when the Internet is wireless, with 21 percent of those aged between 16 and 25 admitting to sharing. The percentage falls as age increases, which explains the small percentage in the lower class that cannot afford this “luxury.”
According to the survey, it is young people who use a neighbor’s wireless Internet signal the most: eight percent of people between 26 and 39 years old, 3 percent among those 40 to 59 years old, and no sharing was reported among netizens over the age of 60.
The subject is being challenged in court: last Friday, the Regional Federal Court of the First Region (TRF1) denied an appeal from the Office of the District Attorney (MPF) who considered it a crime to share a Wi-Fi signal. The MPF argued that it is a “telecommunication activity” and sharing with third parties is done clandestinely.
This would violate the General Telecommunications Law, resulting in a two- to four-year prison sentence, as well as a R$10,000 fine. The Federal Court, however, rejected the argument, stating that it is “value-added service.”
It appears as the “jeitinho” (a typically Brazilian way of doing things by bending rules and social conventions) has found a new use in the Internet Age.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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