Community WiFi : IdeaWatch 2.0
What's the worst part about self-employment? The double-hit on Medicare and Social Security? The ridiculously high independent health insurance rates? The unpaid vacations? Nope. If you're like me, the most shameful part of working for yourself is having to pay for WiFi at Starbucks! You get it all...the atmosphere, the music, the coffee, the vibe...then you go to log on and...Hey! I have to pay for this?! Forget it...I'm off to Panera.
WiFi has certainly changed the way business is done, and if Spanish provider FON has anything to say about it, they're going to change the way WiFi is done. Their premise is simple...if you pay to have WiFi in your house, why should you pay for it everywhere else? So they're taking the community concept to WiFi service provision, and attempting to blanket the world with a WiFi network run by...you.
How does it work? Simple. You buy a FON wireless router and join the FON community. Once you do that, you get free wireless anywhere in the world (yes, the world!) there is another FON router. You can give your service away for free, or if you want to make a buck, sell it for very low daily rates ($3) to non-FONeros. You split the income with FON. If you want a little privacy, no problem. The FON router comes with both private and public access security IDs, so you can surf securely while your neighbors do...whatever it is they do on the internet.
So how does Starbucks fit into all of this? Well recently FON made news when it marketed its services directly at homeowners and businesses near enough to a Starbucks, giving them a free FON router so that their FON wireless could give latte-lovers a second -- and significantly cheaper -- option for wifi service. They even branded the router with a familiar green, black and yet gleefully subversive logo.
But don't think for a second that FON is a fly-by-night. Internet big-timers Skype and Google have poured tens of millions into the company to get the worldwide network up and running.
I think this is a fantastic idea, with a lot of potential for U.S. growth. With its origins in Europe, the idea has been steadily gaining steam across the Atlantic, but is relatively untapped in the U.S. A quick look in my area revealed only 2 FON hotspots within a 10 mile radius of my house, a rapidly-growing area of well over 100,000 people, and only about 30 in downtown Chicago. An enterprising mind could quickly develop a plan for covering their neighborhood, subdivision or entire town with a FON network, providing inexpensive wireless for everyone.
The decision is relatively easy. If you're going to have wireless in your house, why not get it free all around the world, and while you're at it, why not make a little money?
How about it? Any FONeros out there?