A Michigan man was arrested for using a cafe broadband signal. Did he bust a password or did he consider free broadband an amenity that comes with living in the apartment above a cafe that offers an unsecured web connection to customers?
It doesn't surprise me that prosecutors were not delighted by the prospect of prosecuting what they believe to be the first case of this kind since Michigan enacted this law. The law does not appear to be aimed specifically at broadband signal theives, but at hackers with criminal intentions beyond using the signal floating in the air around them just like a broadcast television or radio signal. Unlike broadcast television and radio, the transmission is two-way, but it does not necessarily pass through the host's computer or alter the host's programs or files. The user typically communicates directly with the host's router which communicates to ISP connection hardware (external modem).
I could see all kinds of complications here if the offender has some resources and an enterprising attorney. Let's begin with the wifi host having no licence to the part of the broadcast spectrum it uses. If I have a walkie-talkie that uses a part of the spectrum that doesn't require that I have an FCC license, can I be prosecuted for eavesdropping when I hear other people's conversations in that part of the spectrum? Can I be prosecuted if I transmit and the signal reaches someone else's hardware, even if they don't want to hear my transmission? And the question of what constitutes prosecutable modification of someone else's computer files seems like it's an issue. Files are added or modified every time time one opens a webpage. Use can be implied consent in many instances.