Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application (JITTA)


This document describes the discovery of a LAWN (Large Accidental Wireless Network), an artifact or byproduct that emerges from the unintended but collective effect of the behavior of a group of independently-acting individuals. A LAWN is a high-speed wireless computing network that emerges if there is a high enough density of open and unsecured wireless access points in some area. It can extend throughout a neighborhood and is open for access or exploitation by any resident or casual passerby who chooses to connect to it. As such, it enables anyone with fairly inexpensive and rudimentary computing equipment the ability to connect to the Internet at high speed and no cost. With these characteristics, a LAWN might be used by a municipal government as the infrastructure to create a “wireless city”, a movement that is becoming quite popular in metropolitan governments in the United States.

Data were collected about access points in three areas of a large American West Coast city to determine if the small isolated access points that are known to exist in individual homes are evolving into large “wireless clouds” that can encompass entire neighborhoods. An analysis shows that such LAWNs are evolving, and that there is a relationship between the density of each LAWN and the socio-economic level of the neighborhood, demonstrating the existence of another form of “digital divide”.