Time Warner Broadband Deal to Allow Users to Share Access

AP

In a victory for a small Wi-Fi start-up called Fon, Time Warner will let its
home broadband customers turn their connections into public wireless access
spots, a practice shunned by most Internet service providers in the United
States.

For Fon, which has forged
similar agreements with service producers across
Europe,
the deal will bolster its credibility with American consumers. For Time Warner,
which has 6.6 million broadband subscribers, the move could help protect the
company from an exodus as free or inexpensive 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 public space — 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.

Last fall, Fon, which
counts Google 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 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. Users
who do not have Fon can register on a Web page and pay $2 or $3 for 24 hours of
access.

In the

United States,
where it costs $10 for a day pass to use a T-Mobile HotSpot at a Starbucks, Fon’s
economics seem particularly appealing.

Starbucks and T-Mobile USA
representatives responded that they provide a premium service, and that
customers see value in paying for speed, security and reliability.

Until now, Internet
service providers in the

United
States 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 for example, can terminate contracts if it finds an ad hoc
hot spot.

Fon agues that those
policies do not mesh with the reality of untold thousands of people using their
neighbors’ unsecured Wi-Fi connections.

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