Maybe If We're Cheap Enough, No One Will Notice We're Breaking Everyone's Terms Of Service

from the now,-there's-a-strategy dept

We’ve never quite understood the strategy of the ridiculously hyped up “Fon”. It’s a pure gimmick with a ton of problems that are likely to block it from ever being successful. Basically, the company wants people to offer up their home WiFi for sharing as a network. There are different plans if you share your own home WiFi or offer it for a fee (and that, in turn, determines whether you get to use others’ access points for free or for a fee). Among the many problems is the idea that you can actually get near ubiquitous coverage from just random home users. How many people are really going to jump on board? It’s going to take an awful lot — and even then the dead spots may be a problem. At the same time, with the “fee/free” alternatives, the business model makes almost no sense. If people share, they won’t pay, and how many people actually pay for WiFi access these days? Fewer and fewer, especially as alternatives keep popping up. However, the biggest roadblock has always been the fact that most ISPs forbid any kind of sharing of their connection. While Fon keeps saying that it will convince ISPs otherwise, not many seem to be excited about this sort of thing. Yet, they keep pushing forward, and the latest is a plan to offer a heavily subsidized WiFi router for $5 to anyone who agrees to share their connection — again, pretty much ignoring that almost no one is actually allowed to do so. Perhaps their strategy is to just throw away all the millions of dollars of VC money they’ve raised, and hope that as they’re finally out of money, enough of these devices are out there that the ISPs really can’t do anything about it and decide to cooperate. That seems like a stretch though, and it’s surprising that some investors would bet over $20 million on such a risky strategy.

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Comments on “Maybe If We're Cheap Enough, No One Will Notice We're Breaking Everyone's Terms Of Service”

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Drew Robertson (user link) says:

I'm a Fonero

Three problems: density, free riders and ISP TOS. FON would be more useful by concentrating on single underserved markets (think Queens) through commercial outlets (like bars) — scattering routers from New Paltz to Cagliari does not a network make. That Fonero from New Paltz can come down to Manhattan and use my bandwidth on 44th Street. The chances I’ll use some of his are nil. That needs to change. With muni wifi threatening FON could be a useful ally for the incumbent ISPs. And they need all the friends and stalking horses they can get.

Comboman says:

Good idea but ISPs need to be on-board

They do this in some places in Europe already. When you sign up for broadband service with an ISP they install a WiFi router and you are required to share the connection (with other customers of the ISP of course) and you in turn have WiFi access at other customer’s routers. The routers are configured so your just sharing the broadband connection and not local computer access. iIt’s a very cheap way for the ISP build out a wireless infrastructure.

Roger Entner says:

Re: legal?

If something illegal is downloaded using your IP address (wireless router) then the burden of proof that you did not do it is upon you as the IP address owner. Equating you with your IP address is reasonable proof. Now if you can proof that you were somewhere else when the illegal activity occurred with your IP address you might be able to get out of it. Good luck documenting every step of the day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: legal?

Equating you with your IP address is reasonable proof.

No court in the US has come to that conclusion that I know of. Do you have a case we can reference?

At this point in time (AFAIK), the **AA is dropping any lawsuits if the defendant says they have an unsecured wifi box, because they don’t want a court to rule on that issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

OK, lets stop worrying about how someone uses grammer, this isn’t english 101. I bet some of you wish you could post in red.

First off, can’t you to to Tiger Direct and buy a G Wireless Router for $20?

Second, didn’t the University of Chicago come out with a program that would allow neighborhoods to share WiFi connections, but had the added benefit that always prioritized your own traffic, it allowed people to increase bandwidth that was being unused. I wonder if FON does that?

DDC says:

Not true

“If something illegal is downloaded using your IP address (wireless router) then the burden of proof that you did not do it is upon you as the IP address owner. Equating you with your IP address is reasonable proof.”

Completely untrue. The fact that you rent some bandwidth is not even close to enough to even bring charges against you. The burden of proof still falls on the state to prove that you were the one using it and you committed the crime. The RIAA has been shut down numerous times with this exact same arguement, open wireless network means that they need to come up with a lot more information to get around that pesky reasonable doubt thing.

” Now if you can proof that you were somewhere else when the illegal activity occurred with your IP address you might be able to get out of it. Good luck documenting every step of the day.”

Where do you come up with this stuff? No matter what you think in AMERICA the burden of proof is not on the defendant.

discojohnson says:

As a Fon user...

realistically: i don’t think it’ll ever work. the biggest benefit is that they send you a (most of the time) a wrt-54g rev3, 4, or 5. so now you’ve got a $5 linux router. they flash their own build on there, but per their terms, you just have to be an active member for a year (it has a heartbeat that it calls home with). in my area, there are 3 total users in a 10 mile radius, and i’m 20 miles outside of st louis.

stuart says:

Check your facts please

Breaking everyone’s T&Cs?

I use two different ISP services. Both allow sharing. One forbids me from reselling more bandwidth than I buy 😉

Who pays for WiFi nowadays?

Almost everybody in city centres in many countries. Open networks are fast disappearing. Even in the surburbs some countries it looks like the suppliers have defaulted APs to encryption eg Belgium is wide open but neighbouring Netherlands is much tighter. In a Paris or London Hotel you will probably be paying BTZone, Orange or T-Zone to collect your US mail!

Ubiquitous coverage?

OK but the competition have NO coverage outside the commercial urban areas so suburban coverage is a USP. Urban coverage is a problem for FON but judicious use of entrepenaurs with directional kit creaming hotel & other traffic is a dream that may be partially realised. FONs cheaper prices reflect that the user may need to more to find the service rather than the service finding them. This was the position of competing mobile phone networks when some had much better coverage than others. Funny how it all evened out in the end.

No – not defending FON. There are a lot of risk and mis-executed development and i wouldn’t bet my pension on them. But please don’t misdirect your attack for the sake of a catchy but dodgy headline.

Ziggy says:

my apologize

in my attempt to be humorous iVe once again stumbled the opposite direction…

but while iM on the subject

if the sectence was written ” the VC’s money” then i wouldVe considered that the money actually came from a particular source…. since the “the” and the “‘s” wasNt there…i found it somewhat labourious deciphering what exactly “VC” meant initially. The “ATM machine” reference came in about the same moment the light came on about the “VC” acronym.

Peter says:

Excellent - validation...

I see that this model can in fact fly. Here are the reasons as I see it:

1 – Wi-Fi is already huge, and its getting bigger. More devices are coming on the market (phones included)

2 – A network of Wi-Fi hotspots is already popular – look at Boingo and T-Mobile! if its cheap enough, people will use it.

3 – Fon and Tomizone look like they’ve got the new “distribution” model right. I wonder though that the “free” nature of the Fon deal is a little too cute – I mean, I don’t mind sharing but how do I know that a heavy downloader doesn’t come along and shut me out of my connection – I see the Tomizone solution has something called a friends list at least they can limit their “free” list. It means that the distribution of their routers or software will make Wi-Fi more accessible for people who want access away from the office without paying a wad of cash to their mobile provider for an expensive service.

4 – If these guys were smart, they would allow roaming between networks that prevents double ups? maybe, I dunno.
I think the visionarys who created these outfits will see that this is just the beginning of something very big.

Anyhow – thats what I think…

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