I was betrayed last year.
The independent, Santa Monica cafe in which I liked to write pulled the plug on the nationwide wireless Internet provider to which I had been paying monthly dues for access. In its place, the cafe management installed a system that required payment by the hour, a practice I consider not unlike loan sharking.
This was how they repaid patrons like myself who did the right thing and resisted the temptation to piggyback for free on the signals of the apartment dwellers above. (One resident had named his router "STOP STEALING MY INTERNET," so it wasn't difficult to determine that doing so without permission was wrong.)
I abandoned the cafe after that and took my laptop up the street to Starbucks. The Internet isn't cheap there either, but at least I could pay a monthly fee comparable to the one I had been paying, far less than hourly rates at the old place (when you consider how frequently I write in cafes). And besides, I won't be paying these fees forever, right? Isn't Los Angeles bound to catch up to other major, wired cities?
In the meantime, however, Zach Behrens at LAist has posted a blog entry that suggests there may already be a way to do the right thing, save a considerable amount of money, and put a few bucks in the pocket of those who might otherwise cry "STOP STEALING MY INTERNET."
If you live in WiFi range of a Starbucks (above, next to), FON, "the world's largest WiFi community", will send you a free internet Fonero router. No, you won't be giving free internet to people, but it is cheaper. People who want to hook into your router will pay $2 for the service. That means $1 for you and $1 for Fon. This might even end up cheaper than the civic WiFi we expect to see in 2009.
Of course, some people will have computer security questions/concerns. And you can't rule out a possible counter attack by Starbucks (is it possible, or legal, to block those signals?). But, the idea sounds like it's at least worth a look. You'll find the link to more about the program at LAist.