Posted by: Olga Kharif on April 23, 2007
The Wi-Fi business is about to change, big time. One indication: A deal between FON and Time Warner Cable. The cable company agreed to allow its customers to share their bandwidth through FON’s global Wi-Fi sharing community, whose users can use each other’s Wi-Fi access points for free.
The announcement is ground-breaking, in my opinion. Until now, few Internet service providers have liked the idea of their bandwidth being used by non-subscribers for free — much less encouraged such sharing. So, why this change of heart? I suspect that Time Warner believes that Wi-Fi sharing communities like FON, financed by the likes of Web-calling service Skype, will, eventually, displace commercial and muni Wi-Fi services, and the cable company wants to be in the midst of this huge transition. I think Time Warner is on to something, as I know quite a few people in Portland, Ore., who’ve enrolled into FON’s program already. Wi-Fi-sharing communities are rising up and taking off.
As Andy Abramson notes on his blog, if more cable companies follow Time Warner’s suit, they will greatly boost FON’s growth and will make many citywide muni Wi-Fi efforts obsolete. FON and its cable company partner could also emerge as serious competitors to commercial Wi-Fi service providers like Boingo and T-Mobile. After all, why would anyone pay for Wi-Fi access if, with FON, they can get it for free? Frankly, I will be surprised if, in two years, anyone pays for Wi-Fi access. I believe that most people will either be using free Wi-Fi hotspots or FON-like shared community hotspots, instead.