I live in Madrid, but I have an apartment in NYC, where I am now. It is on 57th and Park. From my NYC I can detect 32 WiFi networks. Of these, 4 are open. Of course this is a particularly dense area of NYC and even though I am on the 4oth floor there are tons of networks. I have been talking to people in NYC about Fon and many say that they do Fon without Fon, they basically leech on their neighbors. Now what I wonder is really how is it that the Cable and DSL operators in the States allowed this to happen.

In Europe they were wiser and they provide Cable and DSL services with locked WiFi. This made them more attractive and safer at a small additional expense, but in America operators wanted to save themselves the cost of providing WiFi and they created a situation in which people go mostly to Linksys and Netgear and buy WiFi routers that are open and many leave them open. Still, I don´t see how the present status quo is better than Fon teaming up with Time Warner Cable, Verizon or other operators and we are working very hard at Fon to change it.

For the US operators teaming up with Fon makes sense for more reasons than say for Neuf, the 3 million customer DSL provider with whom Fon has teamed up with in France. In France the main reasons for Neuf to team up with Fon are:

-To give global roaming to its customers,

-To reduce churn, because with Fon customers pay even when they are mostly not at home and otherwise they disconnect from the service (but with Fon if they disconnect they lose their ability to roam),

-To make more money of their DSL lines, cause every time an Alien connects to Fon or a Fonera shows ads, Neuf and Fon share the revenues (this is also true when we show ads),

-To make it easy to sell broadband (pay at home and roam the world for free) without any additional cost to them.

But, in America, other than the same reasons that exist in France, I see another key reason to adopt Fon and that is to stop leeching. Fon stops leeching because while Fon is sharing, it is sharing among willing donors who know they are sharing. Fon´s sharing increases the revenues of telecom operators. Leeching does the opposite. Leeching consists in somebody who pays the telecom operator and somebody, who generally without the consent of the person who pays, connects resulting in loss revenues to telcos. Moreover, the proliferation of open WiFi hotspots in America is on one side great for the users who don´t pay but, on the other, makes it very easy to enter the WiFi network of the person who leaves their WiFi open and to deprive them of broadband through their open WiFi.

And while with Fon, Foneros are welcome to roam, with leeching even the leechers feel uncomfortable and concern about their action, they alternate between feeling like beggars or thieves. Not a great feeling. And with Fon those who want to share have a bandwidth throttle and always reserve at least half of their bandwidth to themselves, even during the occasional moments that other people connect. And Fon keeps records of those who connect and should anyone commit a crime, these records are available for the police to prove that it was not the owner of the connection who was engaged in the illegal activity. Lastly, with Fon each fonera sends out two SSIDs, or two WiFi networks separated by a firewall.

Another thing that is different is that what Neuf is doing with Fon in France and other carriers are doing as well in other countries: to adapt their own boxes to have our software so they don´t even use the Fonera. Fon´s estimate is that to add Fon WiFi capabilities to the boxes that companies like AT&T or Comcast distribute in the States means only an extra $10 per box. And with this expenditure they can have all the benefits that I mentioned above and stop leeching.

So after the Time Warner Cable deal Fon will continue its efforts to convince Time Warner Cable to adopt our software in their boxes, as Neuf is doing (I do hope that by now the era of disliking France in USA is over and Neuf is seen as a model). On top of this we will try to work with other carriers as well (Time Warner Cable is present in only some parts of USA) to adopt Fon in their boxes. Until that happens we will rely on the sales of our Foneras which contain all the Fon functionality in a box that is attached to any cable or DSL operator and, in any case, help all carriers with their leeching problem.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

No Comments

John Russel on July 18, 2007  · 

We don’t really need FON. I have my WiFi network open to everyone who wants to use it, and I do expect them to do the same with their networks.

We should all fight for a free Internet!

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Marco on July 18, 2007  · 

when reading this, i guess, fon has partnered with verizon, right?

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Mariano on July 18, 2007  · 

I don’t understand what’s your problem with those persons sharing their broadband without using FON. If I leave my network open, I’m allowing other people to take an advantage and use the service that I paid. And it is my will share my own connection. In Spain, at least Telefonica, allows you to configure your router and share your connection.
Let’s people do what people wants.

I believe that could be usefull a soft that allows you to share ALL your bandwidth when my PC is turned off, and when it is turned on, all (or a %) bandwidth is for your own uses. Perhaps, FON allows it. I don’t use FON. But what I mean is that we don’t need a Fonera in order to do that. Is just a soft problem.


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James Thomas on July 18, 2007  · 

Do you really believe what you have written on this post or you just wrote it because you are the owner of FON?

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Martin Varsavsky on July 18, 2007  · 


The answer is NO

. Fon USA has only worked out a deal with Time Warner Cable. But Fon continues to approach all telcos and cable companies and tries to work out arrangements with them to promote our global roaming platform.

Martin Varsavsky on July 18, 2007  · 

Mariano, Fon is not against open wifi, but Fon is a more organized and fair way of sharing WiFi that allows you to earn money, that is more secure, that guarantees that you are not going to be deprived and that it lets you share with those who share with you.

Martin Varsavsky on July 18, 2007  · 


My blog is not the New York Times, my blog is about my ideas and one of them is Fon.

Martin Varsavsky on July 18, 2007  · 


First of all thanks for reporting that my Place des Vosges hotspot may not be working. I am in NYC now and will see to this asap. As far as your desire to leave your WiFi open that is perfectly understandable, but there have been many attempts to create free wifi communities in which people leave their wifi open and, unfortunately, there are too many leechers and very few donors. Fon has had the most success in the world creating donor hotspots and we would love for you to use them and we would welcome you as a fonero.

Martin Varsavsky on July 18, 2007  · 

John, I understand what you mean and Fon is considering adding points like yours to our maps if you would allow us to do so. But when you have a fonera we can know that your fonspot is on. When somebody has open wifi, that is not in a map, people can´t find you. Also people can´t know if you are a willing sharer or if you just did not know how to use a password. My recommendation to all of those who want to leave their wifi open is to adopt a common ssid something like “pls use my wifi”. Now having said all this what I see is that since most wifi is closed even in the States that when there´s no density open wifi becomes a game of luck. With Fon the whole process is more secure and more predictable.

ilan a. on July 18, 2007  · 

Hello martin,
I am a French, New York based Fonero, Web/Mobile Entrepreneur, and I have been following your blog for a while now. I would love to meet with you while you are in New York, and share some ideas about Fon and your other ventures with you! I met Tariq, Michel De Guilhermier, and others here in New York, and love to share some views with famous web entrepreneurs who stop by here. I know quite a few of them now.
Would you be up for a quick drink?

3.0 rating

swimgod on July 19, 2007  · 

hey martin,
i would just like to say i live at 117th on the west side on the 7th floor and with the fontenna ironicly i can see over 100 wireless access points. 1 is not protected and i can get access on, 5 of which are unprotected yet no connectivity can be made. and the rest are either WEP, WPA or WPA2..

if i look hard enough i even find another fonera point (very weak although), i think everyone has wifi and the cable companies are being for stupid to not offer free wireless modems that can speed up everyones wifi by making it so the load of one users of that cable networks can be shared across the wireless points… its kind of hard to explain but i believe its called mesh networking. i hope future fon routers are part cable modem and part hybrid mesh networking routers, so people with cable subscriptions can use each others networks and those without can buy some fon passes :). i wish i was allowed in the beta to test such a product, because im very interested in the concept but i have been put on the waiting list unfortunitly…

well hope this informs you that where you live is not really that dense compared to the rest of nyc lol… p.s. still waiting for my fon shirt 😉

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steven on July 19, 2007  · 


In response to “but Fon is a more organized”….How’s the Fon-Boingo deal coming along..After the PR we haven’t heard anything anymore about when it’s implemented and how it’s implemented for us Bills & Linusses?

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Dirk on July 19, 2007  · 

Hi Martin,
I can not confirm your statement about the DSL services with locked WiFi. I can buy my DSL connection with an optional WiFi router somewhere. Usually, the router costs more or less nothing. Then it is up to me how I configure the router. I can either protect the access via WEP or WPA or enable free access for everyone. That’s it.

I understand that Fon allows me to make some money by opening the WiFi access. But I live in a small village where people either don’t have Internet access at all or are very well connected through their own DSL connection. When I am travelling, in most cases I go on business trips. Then I use commercial hotspots. Yes, they are expensive. Who cares? In comparison with the alternative of using a GPRS/UMTS connection in roaming, it is definitely cheap.

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Martin Varsavsky on July 19, 2007  · 


I am getting u the tshirt!

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hash on July 20, 2007  · 

You list the benefits to big companies and telcos. Your reasons for instigating a closed WiFi network only benefit you (Fon) and the telco. I’d rather let someone use my “unused” bandwidth, since it’s already paid for anyway, rather than just benefiting some big company somewhere.

I understand your position on this – you are a company after all. I just don’t agree that free WiFi is a bad thing.

3.0 rating

Martin Varsavsky on July 23, 2007  · 


We are working to make sure that that deal only favors bills and not linus or if we bring linuses that it is reciprocal

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