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Can Someone Find The FON

Since December I've now been in Madrid, Barcelona, London and Paris and as much as I try to find a FON, none of them seem to be anywhere. I don't mean casually traveling through, but spending enough time to feel like a resident or at least a semi-resident.

I mean, I wander the streets, dine in cool and hip bistros, tapas, wine bars or find the trendy places that one can enjoy oneself. I don't just visit the tourist spots. So with my Nokia N and E series phones, plus my Blacberry, MacBooks and now Asus eeePC, I regularly log on to the net. But over the last year, finding the FON has been harder than finding an Earthlink Muni WiFi signal....

I think Jonathan Greene was right.

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AustinTX

Andy: having just listened to Monday's show, I wanted to mention something that has been bugging me for a while. Ken always refers to the Fon Network as being a mesh. This is a misunderstanding.

WDS meshing was built into early firmware, but was undocumented, and removed over a year ago because it was being misused to get free wifi. Pres Martin V has blogged that he feels that his directional Fontenna is a superior solution, though it really doesn't serve the same purpose. Naturally, the antenna is something they sell, as opposed to giving us WDS for free. :(

It's possible that Fon now makes most of it's money from selling the proprietary La Fonera wifi routers, and accessories. It's still possible to bring your own Linksys or Mac computer into the network, but the firmware downloads are well-hidden, and they don't give you the same privileges with those devices. I'm sure they're pleased to let you inflate their stats.

Fon representatives *do* pronounce the word like "fawn". This has not always been the case, and Spanish friends assure me that it should be pronounced "phone". Fon has told NYT writers that they named the company after the indigenous N. African Fon tribe. This makes no sense, of course. Personally, I say "phone", since i'm opposed to the Newspeak.

Fon has gone through numerous stealth changes to their business plan. Originally, they did not intend to provide wifi at all. They intended to use their wifi routers like femtocells, and make phone calls using wifi handsets. Their "Movement" was to challenge monopolistic telcos, not to provide "affordable" wifi. There are still some old blog interviews out there, which expose this fact. Before that, Fon software was a PC-based hotspot, like the unpublicized Mac-based "Fonspot".

AustinTX

Andy: LOVE your show with Rutkow. You keep it real. ;)

It's not "a Fon". Did you also look for "a T-Mobile" or "a WayPort" while you were hunting for that Fon Hotspot? Fon is the name of the company. :)

Many Fon hotspots are out of range of public areas. Many hotspot icons are also misplaced on the Fon Map. The Map has many more icons (about 50%) that represent hotspots which have been dead for months. The POI downloads (for your GPS) are cluttered with thousands of additional junk entries. Yet the POIs still total less hotspots than Martin V claims are active!

Fon's own POI-derived statistics also don't match maps_francofon_org who poll Fon's mapicon server directly.

Martin claims a bigger number as total hotspots registered, and a much higher one as the number of registered Foneros.

He contradicts himself by definition, by blogging that Aliens (who pay for access) are not Foneros, but consider: if one has to register a hotspot to become a Fonero, and he can register multiple hotspots, why isn't the number of Foneros less than the total of all hotspots registered?

Because Aliens *are* Foneros. Except when they aren't.

There is a side of Fon which few reporters touch on, due to the complexity of Fon and the charisma of Martin V. Martin hopes to sell before the bubble bursts.

Shameless plug: my semi-coherant elfonblog_fondoo_net is full of independant analysis of the Fon Network including why Fon rhymes with "phone".

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