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Summary:

We stopped by the so-called FON Freedom Friday event in Union Square this afternoon, and watched the WiFi-sharing company give away 500 FON routers to those milling around, mostly workers on their lunch break. By the time we left, around one P.M., they had given away […]

We stopped by the so-called FON Freedom Friday event in Union Square this afternoon, and watched the WiFi-sharing company give away 500 FON routers to those milling around, mostly workers on their lunch break. By the time we left, around one P.M., they had given away about half of the routers. It’s not too hard to give away free routers and get people to take them — the hard part will be making any money, especially in the U.S.

Joanna Rees Gallanter, the company’s new executive in charge of U.S. operations (we previously covered the departure of former US chief Juergen Urbanski) was there handing out the goods with the rest of the crew.

We asked her how giving away routers combined with free WiFi access would make a good business model. She said the low cost subscription fees for non-community member day passes will bring in revenue, plus once the company gets to a sizable amount of users there are other ways to bring in revenue from a large community.

FON is a noble idea, but still it might take a lot of investment for them to get a great user base. Then again Google and Skype are investors, so maybe they know something we don’t.

  1. Jesse Kopelman Friday, October 27, 2006

    Google and Skype are investors, but they don’t need FON to be profitable for their investments to be worthwhile. The key for them is that access to broadband be as low cost and ubiquitous as possible. If FON is able to put pressure on incumbent operators, even while slowly bleeding to death from negative cashflow, that will be good enough for Google et al.

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  2. The #1 problem FON has is that the routers are in utterly useless areas 99% of the time. They will be in the suburbs or similar useless places.

    Not to mention the amount of broken internet connections people have. I wouldn’t be very happy to pay the €3 just to find out that the backhaul internet is broken, disconnects every 2 seconds or hopelessly slow.

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  3. FON? No biz model, useless services, broken routers … It is simply amazing that media still covers them.

    FON is a vaporware. They are giving away free routers because nobody is buying them. What does FON have to lose? It’s VC money.

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  4. 1) FON is supported by google and ebay, cisco/linksys… both have huge interest in making more people go online
    and making internet a greater part of the people’s daily life.

    2) fon routers are avaliable for 5$.. they are the regular 30$ linksys routers… with some modifications. so quality is good

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  5. plus once the company gets to a sizable amount of users there are other ways to bring in revenue from a large community
    Social networking the Hard-ware way. J/K

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  6. Nobody knows how this is going to work. Effort and solidarity among users is a good idea, but we do the same sharing the broadband wifi connection in every building. More reliable and the same prize.

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  7. The U.S. (even California – even Northern California) is too big for something like this to gain enough momentum to matter.

    FON have the Google map mashup going on their site – enter your zip and see FON Hotspots are around you. I did that and I was hearing crickets (nothing) for miles and miles…

    Maybe in smaller geographies like Estonia or Armenia or something and you would get enough DENSITY of users… I dont see this getting anywhere in the U.S. NOT TO MENTION Muni-Fi and Metro-Fi.

    The article ends with “…so maybe they [Google/Skype] know something we don’t.” I keep saying the same thing but I am not seeing even a hint of what that might be.

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  8. 500 Linksys access points, each with a range of 100 feet? Great. If they all get plugged in and turned on, 1/2 of a square mile of San Francisco will have wireless.

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  9. Free wireless is going to be huge. Lets say Google invests billions, if every user is forced to visit Google.com when they log on, it would be worth it. It’s a win-win that most people would welcome with open arms. Be patient, it will happen eventually.

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  10. Maybe we could get kids on scooters to ride around town, delivering them to people’s doors? We could call the new venture kozfon!

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