Fon, a Spain-based wireless start-up that is part social movement, has some powerful friends and backers. They have announced financial backing totaling $21.7 million from Skype, Google and venture capitalists Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital. The goal of the company is to create a block-by-block network of shared wireless links around the world. It’s a new application of peer-to-peer technology. The investment by the heavyweights provides some real legitimacy for their efforts.
It works like this – users install software which allows their wireless router to share bandwidth with other Fon members. Once you have done that you are free to roam around and access wireless access from other Fon members, or foneros, wherever you are. The company estimates that just 2-4 users per city block are needed to provide seamless wireless service. Fon members will receive access for free, while non-members will be charged for access. Those charges will be split with ISPs.
The biggest challenge the company faces is that sharing wireless access is against the terms of service of most providers. To counter this, the company is trying to bargain with ISPs and share revenue. To date they have had success with some smaller companies and they hold out hope that industry giants will be open.