Can FON break the cable-phone broadband duopoly?
I don’t know.
Here’s how it works, from David Isenberg, a member of their board of advisors:
- Users get a cheap Linux-based WiFi router.
- Other people sign-in through the hotspot created by your router.
- You can either let them in free and take free service in return, or charge them $2/day and get half the money.
In simple words this is a settlement system for "excess" wireless bandwidth. (These bits fell off a truck.) You can share precious bodily fluids, or you can try to make a buck. People who don’t leave home much and live in popular places may prefer to make a buck, those who travel or live in outlying areas may try to get by with sharing.
FON is most active in Europe (it was launched in Spain), where it has just begun shipping routers. (The first 3,000 to sign-up are getting them for just $25 each.) The company is actively recruiting ISPs as affiliates.
According to its message boards users, or FONeros, are divided among Linuses (those who share) and Bills (those who try to get paid). (Cute marketing there, huh?) There are some folks interested in becoming Bills in the U.S. A lot of people are looking closely at this.
have to get around the Bell-cable duopoly. That means finding
competitive fiber, otherwise the duopolists just choke you down with
contracts, calling what you are doing "stealing." And if you’re going
to the expense of setting-up WiMax to a neighborhood, you’re a WISP. I
could possibly see such WISPs signing master contracts (as Bills) with
Fon, but that still doesn’t get you free WiFi.
Although cheap WiFi would be a big improvement over even what America’s municipal WiFi sponsors (like Earthlink) are talking about. But can you imagine if Google set-up an ISP subsidiary that would run WiMax around cities from its current fiber and act as a master FONero affiliate?
That might be interesting.