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