Time Warner Cable lets users share with Fon

Stephen Lawson
PC World
Tuesday, April 24, 2007; 10:32 AM

Subscribers to Time Warner Cable Inc.'s cable modem service in the U.S. can now share their broadband Internet connection with others through Fon Technology SL, which provides a special public/private router.

Fon's La Fonera router lets broadband users in homes and small businesses operate an internal Wi-Fi network that is secure and another one that is open. Users can choose how much of their broadband capacity is dedicated to their own use and how much is available to the public. Anyone who uses the router to share access at home can use other La Fonera routers when they are away from home. Other people, called "aliens," can pay US$3 per day for access. Business users can choose another plan in which they get a portion of that $3 per day fee instead of getting free access on the road.

This is the first such partnership in the U.S. for Fon, which works with ISPs (Internet service providers) in several other countries. Fon has almost 60,000 "community members" in the U.S., despite the fact that most DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and cable modem providers don't allow their subscribers to share a signal. Fon is talking with other ISPs in the U.S. about similar deals, said Joanna Rees, CEO of Fon US, in San Francisco. Fon Technology, founded in 2005, is based in Spain.

Time Warner Cable will share in the fees aliens pay, but will also benefit because Fon makes broadband more attractive, Rees said. More consumers would sign up for broadband if they knew they could take advantage of it on the road, she said. In addition, La Fonera keeps neighbors from leeching off a customer's open Wi-Fi network without signing in or paying for Fon service.

Customers will join the service through Fon, according to the companies. Details of marketing are still being worked out, Rees said.

Time Warner Cable has 6.6 million cable modem subscribers in its 33-state service area and delivers cable TV to 13.4 million customers. The average speed of its standard Road Runner service is between 5M bps (bits per second) and 7M bps, according to Time Warner.

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