Fon, Time Warner to Let Users Set Up WiFi Hotspots

Time Warner Cable has struck a deal with WiFi provider Fon that will let its home-based and business broadband customers turn their Internet connections into public wireless hotspots.

The move is somewhat evolutionary for American service providers who have traditionally shied away from permitting customers from using their services as public WiFi locations.

Under the agreement, Time Warner Cable subscribers will become Fon community members and be able to create Fon access points from their home- or business-based broadband connections.

The access points are controlled by the subscriber’s secure Fon router, which splits a WiFi connection into an encrypted channel for the subscriber and a public one for neighbors or passers-by.

The router can decide how much bandwidth to share with the public — other subscribers can log on to any Fon router without charge and nonmembers can pay a modest US$2 or $3 for 24 hours of access.

Big in Europe

Fon has similar agreements with ISPs across Europe, but until now has not been able to sign a major provider in the United States.

Hotspot providers are Fon community members who share unused bandwidth via a Fon router in exchange for free WiFi access when roaming and connecting to any Fon access point.

Fon runs the largest WiFi network in the U.S., according to the company.

Keeping Subscribers

Time Warner — which has 6.6 million broadband subscribers — likely inked the deal to help protect itself from a customer exodus that might result when free or inexpensive municipal wireless becomes more readily available, Mukul Krishna, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan, told TechNewsWorld.

“What they (Time Warner) are trying to do is drive demand,” Krishna said, “and the shared agreement is counting on an especially younger demographic who are more willing and able to” make use of the Fon service.

Big Success

Until now, most U.S.-based ISPs have resisted the Fon model and have been prohibiting subscribers from sharing their connections.

“Success for Fon depends on extending Internet access to our user bases outside the home or office without requiring individuals to rely on costly and problematic remote-access solutions,” noted Joanna Rees, CEO of Fon in the U.S.

Fon counts Google and eBay’s Skype among its top investors.

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