In a big win for a little Wi-Fi startup called Fon, Time Warner Cable Inc will let its home broadband customers turn their connections into public wireless hotspots, a practice shunned by most US Internet service providers.
For Fon, which has forged similar agreements with ISPs across Europe, the deal will boost its credibility with US consumers. For Time Warner Cable, which has 6.6 million broadband subscribers, the move could help protect the company from an exodus as free or cheap municipal wireless becomes more readily available.
Fon was founded in Spain in 1995 on the premise that people should not have to pay twice -- once at home, then again in a coffee shop -- for Internet access. At first, the company offered software that let members, called "Foneros," turn Wi-Fi routers into shared access points, but it took hours to get up and running.
In the fall of last year, Fon, which counts Google Inc and eBay Inc's Skype among its investors, started selling and sometimes giving away its own branded wireless router, called La Fonera. Since then, it has distributed about 370,000 of them worldwide.
La Fonera splits a Wi-Fi connection in two: an encrypted channel for the Fonero and a public one for neighbors or passers-by. Foneros can decide how much of their bandwidth to share with the public and can log on to any Fon router without charge. "Aliens," as Fon calls nonmembers, can register on a Web page and pay a modest US$2 or US$3 for 24 hours of access.
In the US, where it costs US$10 for a day pass to use a T-Mobile HotSpot at a Starbucks, Fon's economics seem particularly appealing.
Joanna Rees, chief executive of Fon USA, said such rates at coffee shops, airports and hotels might work for a business person with an expense account but are too high for people who just want to quickly check e-mail, make a call on a Wi-Fi phone or play on a wireless video game device.
"They're extorting people," Rees said.
Starbucks Corp and T-Mobile USA Inc representatives responded that they provide a premium service, and that customers see value in paying for speed, security and reliability.
Fon has about 60,000 Foneros in the US. In February, the company launched "Fonbucks," a one-month router giveaway aimed at people who live above or next-door to a Starbucks. It was an amusing way to get more La Foneras into high-density areas, and it worked to the tune of 6,800 free routers.
But until now, ISPs in the US have resisted the Fon model. Most big companies' end-user license agreements prohibit subscribers from sharing their connection outside the home or business. Verizon Communications Inc, for example, can terminate contracts if it finds an ad hoc hotspot.
Those policies are antiquated and don't mesh with the reality of untold thousands of people using their neighbors' unsecured Wi-Fi connections, Rees argues.
"It's a dirty secret how much leeching" goes on, Rees said. She said ISPs should embrace Fon because the routers, which require that "aliens" enter a valid credit card number before getting online, put a sharp stop to the leeching. And getting free access to the worldwide network of La Fonera routers encourages people to get or keep a broadband connection at home.
In the Time Warner deal that was expected to be announced yesterday, Fon and the cable company would split what "aliens" pay to use the hotspots.
FORCED LABOR: Customs officials have seized a 11.8 tonne shipment of products made from human hair on suspicion they were produced by people facing human rights abuses Federal authorities in New York City on Wednesday seized a shipment of weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp. US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officials said that 11.8 tonnes of hair products worth an estimated US$800,000 were in the shipment. “The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in
JUST QUESTIONS: Expelled reporter Ai Kezhu said that every member of Southeast Television had complied with the law and had not appeared on any talk shows Two Chinese reporters yesterday left Taiwan after the government revoked their accreditation and ordered them to leave amid a probe into allegations that several Chinese media outlets have set up studios and produced political talk shows in Taiwan. The two reporters — Ai Kezhu (艾珂竹) and Lu Qiang (盧薔) — worked for Fujian Province-based Southeast Television and arrived in Taiwan in December last year. The Mainland Affairs Council has launched an investigation after local media reported that Chinese broadcasters — including China Central Television, Southeast Television and FJTV — had set up studios in Taipei and produced political talk shows. Council Deputy Minister
UPTICK IN NUMBERS: The Taipei deputy mayor said the city has services to assist new immigrants, but has established an office specifically to help those from Hong Kong The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office today officially opens, where it is to provide humanitarian assistance to Hong Kongers, after Beijing yesterday passed a controversial national security law for the territory. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed dismay over China’s passage of the law, saying that Beijing has broken its pledge to allow Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years following its handover from the UK. “I feel extremely disappointed [about the law’s passage], which means China did not keep its promise to Hong Kong,” Tsai said in Taipei. Beijing’s “broken promise” also
‘BASELESS ACCUSATIONS’: Ker Chien-ming said it was not possible to drop Chen Chu’s nomination, while KMT lawmakers accused their DPP rivals of ‘homicidal behavior’ The Legislative Yuan is to vote on President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) nominations for the Control Yuan on July 17 after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators regained access to the legislative chamber yesterday after it was occupied by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers for about 19 hours. The Legislative Yuan had been scheduled to meet yesterday morning to discuss its planned extraordinary session, but more than 20 KMT lawmakers on Sunday afternoon broke into the main chamber and occupied the legislative speaker’s podium to protest Tsai’s nomination of former Presidential Office secretary-general Chen Chu (陳菊) to be Control Yuan president. The KMT caucus