I’m A Fonero, Are You A Fonero Too?

nobody likes being a wifi beggar

Now that I’ve moved I’ve finally set up my Fonera. I had hoped to offer a story about the process, but it was so simple I can’t really say much more than “I plugged it in, I registered it, it worked.”

The Fonera is a tiny little router/WiFi access point that looks worlds better than the average Linksys/Netgear/Belkin job, but the real sweetness is in what it does that they don’t do.

(Fon = the company, Fonero = users, Fonera = the WiFi router.)

Back in Warren I was happy to leave my WiFi open, I thought of it as my civic duty to leave it open for all in range — especially to test the stereotype that some nefarious stranger would be outside in a car sapping my signal. But here in the big city (*cough*), I did start to think that some sort of click-wrapper forcing users to agree to abide by relevant laws wouldn’t be a bad idea.

And though the public signal from my Fonera isn’t free to use (unless you’re a Fon user yourself), it’s still cheap ($2/day) and convenient.

The sweet thing is that the Fonera broadcasts both public and private channels, and I get a WPA encrypted connection for my personal use (note: WPA is thin protection, always use SSH or SSL). And, of course, anybody I share my WPA password with can get on for free as well.

Summary:

  • A sweet router/AP
  • Free roaming on the Fon network
  • Click-wrap protection for your public signal
  • A good feeling that I’m expanding the geography of available (though not really free) wireless coverage

What’s especially interesting in this, and something corporate types everywhere should pay attention to, is that Fon is getting suckers like me to build network infrastructure. Starbucks and T-Mobile had to do lots of talking and invest lots of money to get just 5000 locations, but Fon has already given away a batch of 10,000 routers, is selling more, and has 44,000 users (though I can’t tell if that’s users with hotspots, or all users including Aliens).

Fon advisory board member David Weineberger:

The aim is to provide enough incentives, and make it easy enough technically, that thousands of people will start providing Fon hotspots. Bottom up we can have a global network, usable for free by those who choose to share access for free and for an affordable fee by others.

It also doesn’t hurt that the company is now targeting the Starbucks/T-Mobile partnership that’s defined mass-market coffee shop WiFi since the dawn of ages.

In this context, it’s worth remembering what the FCC says about WiFi: landlords can’t regulate or limit radio emissions, only the FCC can (not that it hasn’t been argued).

Extras: The router software is supposedly based on the F/OSS DD-WRT, and Glenn Fleishman has way more details.

Fon, Fonera, Fonero, connectivity, crowdsourcing, grass roots networking, mass, network, wifi, wireless

3 thoughts on “I’m A Fonero, Are You A Fonero Too?

  1. I set up my Fon account a few months ago, but I gave up because the confirmation email would never get it to me even though I tried resending for several days. After reading this post, I tried again and it seems to be working now.

    In the past, they had encouraged regular users to be either a Linus (share your wifi and get free wifi) or a Bill (share your wifi and get cash), but it looks like these days they just want businesses to be Bills.

  2. Yep…I’ve been a Fonero for…well, a long time. Unfortunately, I live in the middle of nowhere, so my hotspot gets absolutely no use. But it’s here when needed.

    Oh, and I’m a Linus.

  3. @Justin:

    I guess I didn’t notice the shift from Linus to Bill, and the promo materials seem to promote the Linus users.

    One thing I wish I could control is that no matter what you chose to be — Linus or Bill — Aliens and Bills still have to pay $2/day to use the hotspot. I mean, if offering a free hotspot with clickwrap protection was as easy as Fon makes their setup, I’d probably do that instead.

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