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How to share Internet service with your neighbors, and why you shouldn't

Whitney and her neighbors want to get on the same network, and share the same Internet connection.

You can do this, and depending on your homes' geography, it might even be relatively easy. I'm going to tell you how to do it, but I'm also going to tell you why you probably shouldn't.

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If your router's Wi-Fi signal is powerful enough to be accessible throughout your neighbor's home--or if their router's signal is powerful enough throughout yours--the logistics are easy. All you have to do is share the Wi-Fi password.

And the signal probably is powerful enough if you live in adjoining Manhattan apartments. But in large suburban, stand-alone houses, the signal may need a boost. See Extend your Wi-Fi network throughout the house for some suggestions.

But however far the Wi-Fi reaches, there are plenty of good reasons not to share a connection.

With more people on the same Internet connection, you're likely to experience a performance hit. You may be able to fix this problem by paying more for faster service, but that would cancel out some of the savings you get from sharing an Internet connection.

And there are other potential complications. Ever lose your Internet connection, and fix it by rebooting your modem and router? You can’t do that if the modem and router are in your neighbor's house and they're on vacation. They'd have to leave you a key.

Which brings up another issue: How well do you trust your neighbors? After all, you'll be sharing a network with them. You protect your Wi-Fi networks from strangers for a reason, and you'll need to be sure that the neighbors won't use your network against you. What's more, law enforcement agencies may mistake a neighbor's questionable online activities for yours.

Finally, should your ISP find out about your little arrangement, it won't be happy. Chances are this practice violates your service agreement. Before sharing the network, read your service agreement carefully.

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